site in Cyprus (35°10′ N, 33°53′ E), named after the village located 1 km (.6 mi.) to the east. It extends some 46 km (29 mi.) east of Nicosia, 8 km (5 mi.) northwest of Famagusta, and 3 km (2 mi.) southwest of Salamis on ground that slopes gently from east to west, from the foot of a low cliff down to the bed of the river Pediaios. In antiquity, the estuary of the river probably reached inland as far as Enkomi and sheltered its harbor.

Official excavations started In 1896 with the British Museum Expedition, which was led by A. S. Murray. Numerous campaigns followed: Sir John Myres and Menelaos Markides In 1913, on behalf of the Cyprus Museum Committee; Rupert Gunnis In 1927; the Swedish Cyprus Expedition (SCE) under Einar Gjerstad and Erik Sjöqvist In 1930; Claude F.-A. Schaeffer In 1934; and a French expedition, led by Schaeffer from 1946 to 1970, later by Olivier Pelon from 1971 to 1973. From 1948 to 1958, a Cypriot team directed by Porphyrios Dikaios joined the French expedition. The Cypriots worked on their own and in separate areas. The 1974 war put an end to field research. [See the biographies of Myres, Gjerstad, Schaeffer, and Dikaios.]

The first excavators considered Enkomi as a Bronze Age necropolis of an unknown settlement. They dug through the upper archaeological layers, taking no notice of them or regarding them as medieval. The British Museum pioneer excavations yielded some of the most impressive objects ever found in Enkomi, such as an ivory game box with relief decoration, a bronze cultic stand, ivory mirror handles, and a large Egyptian necklace of gold with paste inlay. The publication (Murray, 1900) made Enkomi a major site for the Cypriot Late Bronze Age. The Swedish expedition published twenty-two tombs (Sjöqvist, 1934, 1940). Careful study of the stratification in each tomb provided new firm ground for the relative and absolute chronology of the Late Bronze Age. In 1934, Schaeffer soon realized that the walls he had encountered while digging for tombs belonged to the Bronze Age. He laid bare a building made of ashlar (dressed) masonry with a hoard of bronze objects (the so-called Maison des Bronzes).

The way was open for the exploration of the ancient town of Enkomi. Its equation with Alashiya, the capital of the kingdom of Alashiya, was proposed by Dussaud and by Schaeffer. It is generally rejected, but final decision must await new textual evidence. Some significant points in the chronology of Enkomi have not yet been settled. Schaeffer's and Dikaios's stratigraphies cannot be precisely correlated. For simplicity's sake, a division into three phases is used here, corresponding roughly to the traditional partition of the Late Cypriot Bronze Age: I (c. 1600–1450/1400 BCE), II (1450/1400–c. 1200), III (c. 1200–1050).

Phase I (c. 1600–1450/1400) has been studied extensively only by Dikaios. In his Area III (and grid area 1W, see below), at the northern limit of the town, Dikaios uncovered a long rectangular building that he understood to be a fortress, in which he identified a metallurgical workshop. In Area I (4W), near the center of the settlement, were small houses. The destruction of this phase is ascribed to an earthquake. Two exceptional built tombs, irregular tholoi (beehive-shaped tombs), can be dated to phase I (SCE tomb 21, probably in 6W) and to early phase II (French tomb at point 1336, in 5E).

Phase II (1450/1400–c. 1200) eventually saw a radical development in the urban organization of Enkomi from an open, loosely occupied town to a fortified, dense, and strictly planned city, and a boom in metallurgical activity. According to Dikaios, this boom was caused by Mycenaean settlers during phase II, but the geometrical town plan, the final construction of the rampart, and the introduction of ashlar masonry all belong to the beginning of phase III, after a destruction and the arrival of newcomers related to the so-called Sea Peoples, with a strong Mycenaean element among them. For Schaeffer, the changes date back to a time well before the end of the thirteenth century and belong to phase II. Recent discoveries (ashlar masonry of the thirteenth century at Kition and Kalavasos, for example) have in the main confirmed Schaffer's reconstruction. [See Kition; Kalavasos.]

The city wall encloses a roughly semicircular area, some 406 m (1,332 ft.) north–south and 350 m (1,148 ft.) east–west. Basically, it consists of an inner wall with an upper part of mud bricks and of an outer strengthening of very large, minimally hewn rocks. It is in places protected by small bastions. A northern and a western gate have been found.

The town is divided by one north–south street and ten east–west streets into large rectangular blocks, which measure approximately 33 × 170 m (108 × 558 ft.) numbered 1W to 12W and 1E to 12E, starting from the north. This geometrical grid was in use until the final destruction. A paved square (from the beginning of phase III in its present state) marks the center of the city.


ENKOMI. Figure 1. The southern facade of building 18, along east-west street no. 5. Looking east-northeast, during 1950 excavation. (Archives CFA Schaeffer, Paris)

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In grid area 6E is a rectangular tripartite construction of large ashlar masonry, probably a temple. A square base supports a pillar with a stepped capital, a type also known from Kition, Palaipaphos, and other Cypriot sites. Along street 5, in grid area 5W, extends Building 18, named after Swedish Tomb 18 discovered by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition (see figure 1). It was erected around the middle of the thirteenth century BCE, apparently as a residence for a wealthy leader, the earliest indication of a political authority in the city. The facade, nearly 40 m (131 ft.) long with four wide doors, is partly made of blocks of ashlar masonry, one of them no less than 3 m (10 ft.) long. This technique, although reminiscent of Ugarit, is used here in a way peculiar to Cyprus. The central part of the building recalls Building X at Kalavasos, near Limassol. Four chamber tombs of ashlar masonry of the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries in areas 3E and 4E may indicate that some aristocratic families from Ugarit had settled in Enkomi.

During phase II there is a great increase in industrial production, exchanges, and prosperity. The funerary furniture becomes very rich with a wealth of imported Mycenaean pottery. Many copper smelting and working places are attested, especially in area 1W. At the beginning of phase III (c. 1200–1050) although Building 18 had lost its aristocratic character, a large residence of ashlar masonry was built in area 4W. It comprised a series of three communicating spaces, one of them with a central hearth, a feature equated by Dikaios (1969–1971, p. 187) with the Mycenaean “megaron.” The whole settlement was destroyed by a violent fire, ascribed to the Sea Peoples around 1190 BCE.

Activity and wealth, again based on metallurgy, were rapidly restored. Nevertheless the dwellings are usually smaller than in phase II. Profound cultural changes are noticeable in the funerary customs. Shaft graves supersede rock-cut chamber tombs. Judging by the small number of intra muros inhumations, most of the dead were buried outside the settlement. The bulk of the local painted pottery now reflects Mycenaean tradition.

The sanctuaries of the “horned god” and the “ingot god” are of particular interest. The rituals for both deities show great similarities—libations and offerings of bucrania (oxen skulls)—that reflect Aegean, Near Eastern, and local tradition.

The sanctuary of the horned god occupied the profoundly remodeled residence in area 4W. Oxen skulls and other offerings lay on the floors. The cult statue was set in the southernmost part of the former megaron where 276 one-handled libation bowls have been found. The bronze figure, 55 cm high, shows a young athletic god wearing a short kilt and a curly cap from which two ox horns emerge. The attitude is static, the right hand extended with its palm facing downwards. The god has been tentatively described as an archaic Apollo, a protector of the cattle. A space was also dedicated to a female deity, represented by a tiny bronze figurine with a headdress resembling that of the Egyptian goddess Hathor.


ENKOMI. Figure 2. Front view of a painted terra-cotta double-headed “sphinx” or “centaur.” Found in the sanctuary of the ingot god. Height, 31 cm. (Archives CFA Schaeffer, Paris)

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The sanctuary of the ingot god, in area 5E, is quite different in its layout. Its main feature is a large rectangular, partly covered hall. West of it, nearly 250 fragments of clay figurines have been collected. They were originally standing in circles on disk-shaped bases, clearly an Aegean tradition. In the hall are a hearth and a sacrificial altar. Benches run along the walls; on or near them have been found most of the offerings, such as oxen and fallow-deer skulls, possibly used as ceremonial masks, notched animal shoulder-blades, libation bowls, and two large painted clay figurines of double-headed sphinxes (see figure 2). The 35-centimeter-high bronze cult statue found in a small room arranged in the northeast corner of the hall is that of an oriental smiting god standing on an ingot in the shape of an oxhide. It is a base added to characterize the deity as a protector of metallurgy. A figurine of a goddess standing on an ingot, probably from Enkomi, is now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

At the end of the twelfth century, Enkomi suffered new destruction, possibly by an earthquake. A vivid revival ended with a final destruction before 1050. Part of the population probably moved to Salamis. [See Salamis.]

This description of the excavation can convey but a faint idea of Enkomi's contribution to the study of Cyprus in the Late Bronze Age, on matters such as the presence and role of the Aegeans, the transition to the Iron Age, the problem of the Sea Peoples, and the religion. The material (pottery, jewelry, ivories, faience, stone vases, and cylinder and stamp seals) illustrates how Cyprus, in close contact with Egypt, the Aegean, and the Asiatic Near East, took part in the elaboration of the aristocratic international culture of the Eastern Mediterranean Late Bronze Age. Worthy of mention are the funerary gold “mouthpieces” with stamped decoration, the silver bowl with gold and niello bull heads, faience goblets in the shape of a woman's or an animal's head. Metallurgy is illustrated by a great variety of bronze tools, weapons (swords of the Nenzingen type), armor (bronze greaves of SCE Tomb 18), figurines (seated drinking deities, cult-chariot), molds, and copper oxhide ingots (the main export of Cyprus, a symbol of richness and power). Iron appears in phase III. Cuneiform archives are missing as yet, but a wealth of information may be hidden in the undeciphered Cypro-Minoan texts.


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Jacques Lagarce