Paper abstract

Reassessing Aegean migration during the 12th and 11th centuries: a view from Cyprus

Leriou Anastasia

The aim of proposing the present paper is the instigation of a wider discussion reassessing the various migratory movements that are thought to have occurred in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean after the fall of the Mycenaean palaces and throughout the course of the 12th and 11th centuries. The great majority of the archaeological hypotheses in support of these movements are based on literary evidence viewed in combination with stylistic similarities and/ or dissimilarities in the archaeological record. During the last decades, however, plenty of criticism is being expressed in regards to the theoretical basis of these hypotheses. Recent developments in archaeological thought maintain that historical reconstructions based on the simplistic equation of peoples (fluid and elusive) with groups of artefacts (static), in other words through the application of the culture historical approach towards material culture, are highly inconclusive. Our discussion is going to focus primarily on Cyprus, which is generally believed to have received large numbers of immigrants from the Aegean during the 12th and the 11th centuries. The newcomers’ presence is substantiated by artifacts, tombs and architectural features of Aegean type as well as the introduction of the Greek language. Further support comes from mythological traditions maintaining that the historical Cypriot kingdoms were founded by Greek heroes that arrived at the island after the Trojan War. Nevertheless, the closer look at the Cypriot archaeological record from a different theoretical angle that I cast while undertaking doctoral research (and have outlined at other communications) has significantly changed the picture: no indisputable evidence for an Aegean colonisation or migration movement to Cyprus may be identified. On the other hand, there is ample evidence for a particularly close relationship between Cyprus and the Aegean world and most probably the presence of Aegean peoples on the island during the period in question. In the light of these developments, I would like to re-address the extent, character and purpose of the migrations that occurred during the Greek ‘Dark Age’ and thus cast some light on the socio-political and economic circumstances prevailing the Aegean world during that time.

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