Online Review: Book

Swedish Excavations at Sinda, Cyprus: Excavations Conducted by Arne Furumark 1947–1948


By Arne Furumark and Charles M. Adelman. With contributions by Paul Åström, Nils-Gustaf Gejwall, and Hans Henning von der Osten (SkrAth 4°, 50). Pp. 238, figs. 42, pls. 61, tables 24. Paul Åströms Förlag, Sävedalen 2003. $88. ISSN 0586-0539; ISBN 91-7916-046-8 (paper).

Furumark’s excavations at the Late Bronze Age fortified town of Sinda, some 20 miles east of Nicosia, were conducted more than 50 years ago. Despite lack of publication and the relatively small area uncovered, the site has since played an important role in discussions of the 12th century B.C. in Cyprus. A brief summary report appeared in the American Journal of Archaeology in 1948, and a longer account appeared in Swedish in 1952. These and a more substantial unpublished report written by Furumark in 1951 formed the basis of Adelman’s volume. Collaboration between Adelman and Furumark began as long ago as 1977, but the project remained unfinished on the latter’s death in 1982. The current volume was completed in 1998 but was subject to further delays before its final publication with a summary and conclusions by Paul Åström in 2003.

Adelman’s preface is both a moving tribute to Furumark and a candid account of the many difficulties faced during this long period of gestation. These included torn plans, plans and sections without indication of strata, uncatalogued and fading negatives, incomplete or nonexistent artifact descriptions, missing architectural documentation, and incomprehensible field notes. These problems were compounded by the destruction of the site by local villagers in 1951 and the loss of finds housed in the Famagusta Museum during the Turkish invasion of 1974. There are lessons here for all field archaeologists.

A great deal, of course, has changed since the excavations at Sinda. Furumark’s ceramic terminology in particular is out of date, and his chronology and historical interpretation of the site have been repeatedly challenged. While some ceramic categories are updated in brackets (e.g., Quasi-Mycenaean Linear Ware [= Painted Wheel-Made III]), for the most part Adelman’s text and the extensive find catalogues maintain the original terminology. Points of departure between Furumark’s account of the excavations and the final report are, however, clearly defined, and Adelman’s own stratigraphic interpretations, rendered necessary in particular in the description of the South Area, are presented with due warning regarding their accuracy. For the most part the text reads smoothly, in line with Adelman’s stated desire to present the site as much as possible “in the style and with the feeling of Furumark.”

Part 1 of the volume begins with a description of the excavations. These were conducted in three areas (Northwest Area, Gate Area, South Area). While some pre- and post-Late Bronze Age remains were found, the three main periods of occupation (Sinda I–III) were dated by Furumark to Late Cypriot IIC(2), IIIA(1), and IIIA(2). Both Sinda I and Sinda II ended in episodes of destruction. These were attributed by Furumark, respectively, to the arrival of Greek settlers (ca. 1230) and the Sea Peoples (ca. 1190), with Sinda III representing a partial reoccupation prior to final abandonment in ca. 1150 B.C. The Gate Area produced remains of a city gate with wheel tracks, a gate house, and a tower or bastion. Of note is a substantial deposit of votive stone sculpture of Cypro-Archaic and Cypro-Classical date, laid in the late fourth century B.C. as filling for a road that passed through the ruined gateway. In the South Area, where greater soil depth provided better preservation, an area of housing was found. The process of excavation is well illustrated by text photographs. Sections and plans are included as inserts in a pocket in the back cover, and synoptic tables provide a schematic presentation of strata and find distribution.

In part 2 Adelman provides a brief treatment of the history and significance of the site. He notes the need for a reassessment of the Sinda material in light of recent ceramic studies but unfortunately makes no attempt to do so. Addressing the question of who built Sinda and why, it is suggested that the settlement controlled the only crossing of the Pedieos River on the copper route from Idalion and Athienou to Enkomi, perhaps exacting tolls from travelers and traders. Adelman suggests that the site was surrounded by a double wall, with the remains excavated by Furumark belonging to the inner system. Difficulties in distinguishing catastrophe material from pre-floor fills are noted but not considered overly problematic, and life at Sinda is conventionally described as lively and prosperous, the inhabitants engaged in agriculture, food production, craft activities, and bull worship.

It is left, indeed, to Paul Åström to take up the challenge of reviewing Sinda and its two destruction levels in the light of more recent discoveries and within the highly contested context of the history and chronology of Late Cypriot III. Åström suggests a lowering of the dates proposed by Furumark in line with a lowering of the end of Mycenaean IIIB. Thus, Period I, which produced Mycenaean IIIB pottery, ends ca. 1190/1180 B.C., Period II in ca. 1150/1140, and Period III in ca. 1110/1100 B.C. This lowered chronology raises the possibility that the first destruction at Sinda was brought about by the Sea Peoples and not, as Furumark proposed, by Greek settlers. Åström’s own view is that both destructions were caused by pirates and adventurers consisting of Mycenaeans and groups from other areas, or possibly by conflict between Cypriots themselves. Whatever the case, this final publication of Sinda will no doubt give rise to renewed debate about events in Cyprus in the 12th century and, as Åström notes, further fuel discussion of the radical low chronology proposed by some scholars for Palestine via oft-noted links between Sinda Mycenaean IIIC1b and Philistine pottery.

Part III contains extensive find catalogues with summary indexes and a listing of all classes of material with accompanying high-quality black-and-white illustrations and line drawings. While some items (e.g., a stamp seal) are discussed in detail, most appear only as catalogue entries with typological attribution and some comparanda. Contextual data and Furumark’s views on ceramic style and chronology are reported where relevant. Sherd counts by ware and stratigraphic context and other distributional and statistical data are further presented in part IV and an appendix. The animal remains are reported by Gejvall, translated from a Swedish original of 1951.

Adelman is to be commended for taking on an extremely difficult task and achieving a fine result for which scholars of the Cypriot Bronze Age have cause to be grateful. The volume lacks a contemporary reading of the ceramic evidence and were it not for the important contribution by Åström would also be missing a serious analysis of the historical significance of Sinda. It is clear, however, that Adelman’s main objective was to retrieve and present the basic stratigraphic, architectural, and artifactual data, and he has done this in full and painstaking detail. In making the primary data available to other scholars, he has acquitted the primary obligation of the original excavator and ably fulfilled the demands and responsibilities of a collaborative task for which few of us would have had either the courage or patience.

Jennifer M. Webb
Archaeology Program
La Trobe University
Bundoora, Victoria 3083

Book Review of Swedish Excavations at Sinda, Cyprus: Excavations Conducted by Arne Furumark 1947–1948, by Arne Furumark and Charles M. Adelman

Reviewed by Jennifer M. Webb

American Journal of Archaeology Volume 110, Number 1 (January 2006)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1101.Webb

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