Home > Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project > More Cyprus, More Hybridity, More Pyla-Koutsopetria in Print

More Cyprus, More Hybridity, More Pyla-Koutsopetria in Print

The most recent issue of the American Journal of Archaeology has a pair of forum articles that continue the work of trying to understand the complex events and processes that took place in Cyprus at during the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age.  In “Cultural and Political Configuration in Iron Age Cyprus: The Sequel to a Protohistoric Episode”, Maria Iacovou provides a nuanced reading the Bronze Age to Iron Age transition with an emphasis on the emergence of a powerful Greek speaking group on the island by the Geometric period.  She emphasizes, in particular, the exceptional character of a Bronze Age migration to Cyprus and undermines efforts to see parallels between what happened in Cyprus and on other islands in the Mediterranean like Sicily.  Of particular significance in this article is that she saw the arrival of a distinct group of Mycenaean Greeks to have stimulated the re-organization of the island over the course of the late Bronze and early Iron Age and did so unevenly across the island.  In some places, Greek migrants found fertile ground and relatively quickly asserted political influence, in other places the emergence of Greek influence was more gradual and in other places still, it is barely detectable at all.  For Iacovou, then, the notion of “hybridity” recently applied by Knapp to Cyprus only obscures the real geopolitical context for the establishment of Greek power on the island.  The emergence of Greek cultural hegemony on the island was a product of political and social calculations and was closely associated with the persistence of certain centers on the island and the decline of others.

In response to this Knapp and Voskos (“Cyprus at the End of the Late Bronze Age: Crisis and Colonization or Continuity and Hybridization?”) reiterate the arguments recently offered in Knapp’s recent book.  They see the emergence of Greek cultural authority on Cyprus to be part of a gradual process taking place over the course of centuries.  This gradual period of migration established the basis for a hybridized community which ultimately became the heir to political power on the island over the course of the turbulent Late Bronze Age.  Of course, most models for understanding hybridity, at least those deriving from a post-colonial context, recognized that the hybrid, on an individual level, acquired some kind of advantage as a result of their hybrid status.  Knapp’s model, at least as I understand it, seems weak in explaining why individuals would chose to adopt hybrid identities.  On the one hand, if contact between Cyprus and the Aegean was initiated by merchant communities, which crossed cultural boundaries for economic reasons, one could conceivably imagine reasons for hybridizing, although none that are inevitable.  On the other hand, hybrid individuals could be dangerous figures capable of upsetting established cultural, social, and political expectations.  As such they could appear as threats as they destabilized the assumptions that structured social interactions and relegated to a kind of post-colonial third-space which vacillated between established social norms without a clear rhythm or center.

While the interpretation of the evidence from the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age is far beyond my ability, we do hope that our work at the Late Bronze Age site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos, which did not feature particularly prominently in either article, will contribute to how scholars understand the emergence of Greek culture on Cyprus.  In fact, to facilitate our analysis of the site, we have assembled a “hybrid” team comprised of an archaeologist with a focus on Cypriot Pre-History, Michael Brown, and an Aegeanist with a focus on the Mycenaean period, Dimitri Nakassis.    Over the past two field season the difference in methods, approaches, and assumptions infused the project with a kind of dynamic tension (which at times verged on being a bit too dynamic) typified by an environment where hybridity was both a potential outcome and feared result. 

To defuse the sometimes violent tensions possible during the hybridization process, the Pyla-Koutspetria Archaeological Project has now decided only to publish in periodicals with cute animals on the cover.  That’s a joke.  Here’s a copy of our recent article in the British Ministry of Defence Conservation Magazine Sanctuary.  Our article runs from pages 62-63.


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