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Two Late Cypriot City Quarters at Hala Sultan Tekke: The Söderberg Expedition 2010–2017

Two Late Cypriot City Quarters at Hala Sultan Tekke: The Söderberg Expedition 2010–2017

By Peter M. Fischer and Teresa Bürge (SIMA 147). Uppsala: Astrom Editions 2018. Pp. 648. €114.48. ISBN 978-91-981535-4-5 (cloth).

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In the Late Cypriot (LC) IIC period, the eastern Mediterranean had reached the peak of the International Age and was beginning to suffer from droughts and disturbances. Transitioning to LC IIIA, the infamous series of destructions that ended the Bronze Age reshaped the human landscape. In this timely and well-produced volume, the 2010–2017 excavations of 13th- and 12th-century strata at Hala Sultan Tekke (hereafter HST) are presented. The authors indicate that some analysis is in progress and work is ongoing on a number of fronts, but they are presenting the data to the public sooner rather than later. This admirable philosophy should be more widely adopted. The result is a volume full of exemplary fieldwork and data that—if somewhat bare of analysis and comparanda in places—still presents a coherent organization and discussion. The volume breaks new ground in its format for presenting primary data, which proves to be highly effective. Production values are high, with abundant color images throughout.

Peter Fischer (“Introduction and Vade Mecum,” ch. 1) kindly includes a review of the abundant previous work at the site dating back to 1894 and the many resulting areas of excavation. A detailed GPS survey undertaken by Fischer’s team has now charted the site more fully in coordination with geophysical prospection, as presented in chapter 8. The new excavations on the northern edge of the site have been divided into numbered city quarters, CQ blocks, which subsume Paul Åström’s Area 6 and 6 West (now CQ1 and 2). These areas are dealt with in the current volume, while another exposure to the west (CQ3) and further work in Åström’s Area 8 are awaiting publication.

Ongoing research goals presented here include obtaining a complete occupational sequence, determining the extent of the settlement, synchronizing relative and absolute chronologies, and investigating the two burn layers already visible in the exposures dating to the later 13th to mid 12th century BCE. Judging by this publication, these goals have been substantially well addressed, and continuing work will further refine the results. The sequence at HST begins ca. 1650 and thus covers the entire Late Cypriot era (8). Magnetometry and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) results presented here are following the course of the unexcavated parts of the settlement. Work on the LC I exposures continues and aims to build radiocarbon and material sequences that will contribute to resolving the chronological disputes regarding the 17th–16th centuries BCE (high, middle, and low chronologies). Work on resolving the dating of the two 13th–12th century destructions is ongoing and is described in chapter 9.

Chapter 2 (Fischer and Teresa Bürge, “Stratigraphy, Architecture, and Finds”) includes excavation results along with concordance tables to identify finds in specific architectural contexts. Lavishly illustrated with color photographs and digitized drawings, the chapter provides a sound foundation for discussing activity area functions as well as their sequence and dating. Great care is taken to locate finds on plans. Having part of the catalogue integrated with the stratigraphy chapter eliminates the usual need to flip back and forth to see illustrations of the more remarkable items mentioned in the text.

Chapter 3 (Bürge and Fischer, “The Pottery”) is devoted to ceramic vessels and, like the previous chapter, is a well-executed study destined to be of major importance in the field. The catalogue is comprehensive and lavishly illustrated. The authors might, however, have looked for exact parallels for some of the Plain White wheelmade shapes (HST typology PW-B1a, PW-B6, PW-L1, and PW-K1, pp. 215-17, 232) in western Syria and in Turkey’s Hatay province; also paralleled in Syria are the cookpots of type Coarse-CP3 (p. 226) with and without loop handles (e.g., Types 153–155 in C.L. Woolley, Alalakh: An Account of the Excavations at Tell Atchana in the Hatay, 1937–1949, Oxford University Press 1955, pl. CXXIII). Missing from the HST repertoire of Syrian-inspired wheelmade pottery forms is the ubiquitous mainland Late Bronze Age large plate found from Hatti to Mitanni and from Syria to Egypt, likely marking a difference in local Cypriot serving and dining traditions (see M. Horowitz, “The Evolution of Plain Ware Ceramics at the Regional Capital of Alalakh in the Second Millennium BC,” in C. Glatz, ed., Plain Pottery Traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East: Production, Use, and Social Significance, Left Coast Press 2015, 153–81). Differences in serving and eating traditions in the context of similar pottery aesthetics can be vital in understanding spheres of international influence and responses by local cultures. Locals can choose to emulate prestigious forms and styles without changing their diet or customary manner of serving and consuming food.

The range of potmarks found at HST is remarkable, and the authors might have discussed this with respect to the vital ongoing discussion about potmarks in the ancient Near East by M.-H. Gates (“Potmarks at Kinet Höyük and the Hittite Ceramic Industry,” in É. Jean, A. Dinçol, and S. Durugönül, eds., La Cilicie: Espaces et pouvoirs locaux (IIe millénaire av. J.-C.–IVe siècle ap. J.-C.). Actes de la Table Ronde d’Istanbul, 2–5 novembre 1999, Publications de l'Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes 2001, 137–57) and C. Glatz (“Bearing the Marks of Control? Reassessing Potmarks in Late Bronze Age Anatolia,”AJA 116.1, 2012, 5–38). The question of whether potmarks indicate state-level control of production is crucial to understanding the social organization of sites like HST and could contribute significantly to a discussion of both local governmental forms and possible rule by a mainland entity such as the Hittite empire.

Chapter 4 (Bürge, Serena Sabatini, Fischer, and Laerke Recht, “Small Finds”) presents seals, figurines, textile production tools, lead objects, and miscellaneous other finds. In chapter 5 (“Notes on Metal Production in CQ1 and CQ2”), Fischer briefly sketches the considerable evidence for metal production including slag, ore, molds, fragments of multiple metals, ingots, and tools. While brief and lacking in plans, this chapter presents data that are either preliminary or already published elsewhere. References are provided for metallurgical studies on copperworking and for other loci of metalworking outside CQ1 and 2. Good evidence seems to support these authors’ conclusion that households at HST were processing their own metal alongside household activities.

Chapter 6 (David Reese and Omri Lernau, “Faunal Evidence: Catalogues, Worked Bones, Ivory, Horn, Shells, and Fish”) is an exceptional example of faunal studies. Here, too, an editor’s note indicates that the analytical work is still in progress. Seventy-three pages are devoted to a catalogue of faunal data as well as an analysis of the fish bones. Collection methods were obviously state-of-the-art to have retrieved so many fish bones, which are notoriously fragile and hard to spot.

Chapter 7 (Dominika Kofel, “Analysis of Plant Macroremains and Charcoal”) also reveals the exemplary field methods that have retrieved a great variety of species from crops to trees and from weeds to herbs and grasses. The preliminary examination of the distribution of species has pointed out some trends of interest, especially given that CQ3 was included here in the analysis. Emerging patterns reveal areas with large amounts of grain (CQ1) but no olive or grape remains, suggesting grain storage. CQ3 has the widest range of species and some areas strongly suggest food preparation. Interestingly, CQ2 has a concentration of murex shells which were likely part of a dye manufactory.

Chapter 8 (Immo Trinks, Klaus Löcker, and Fischer, “Archaeological Prospection Surveys”) begins with perhaps more explanation of the workings of ground-penetrating radar and magnetometry than is strictly necessary, although it is valuable to apprise the reader of the potential and the limitations of the technology. Geophysical work at HST has a long and distinguished history, beginning in 1980. Results of prospection in 2010, 2012, and 2014 have helped guide excavation and enlarged the mapped areas of the site. Test excavation has confirmed that both the ground-penetrating radar and magnetometry results are reliable and extremely valuable. The resultant analysis indicates that the settlement is larger than the area currently defined and is in immediate danger from deep plowing.

Chapter 9 (Felix Höflmayer, Aaron Burke, Brian Damiata, John Southon, Eva Maria Wild, Peter Steier, and Fischer, “Radiocarbon”) presents and analyzes two groups of dates: one from CQ1 and previously published, and the other from CQ1 and 2 newly obtained. For the first group, while the date range covered the 14th to 11th centuries BCE, a skillful Bayesian analysis was able to narrow down the likely dates of the two strata published here. As a result, the transition from stratum 2 to stratum 1 was localized to the latter half of the 13th century, perhaps at about 1200 BCE. As there were no bracketing layers to provide further context, the beginning of stratum 2 and end of stratum 1 are still nebulous. The second group, new radiocarbon dates from CQ1 and 2, had only just been received and are presented without integration or discussion. They appear to accord well with the first group of dates.

Chapter 10 (Fischer and Bürge, “Discussion and Conclusion”) begins with a clear and timely review of the variant dating schemes known as the high, middle, and low chronologies. Based on relative and absolute dating evidence from a wide variety of sources, the authors accept the high chronology at the current time. A consideration is made of HST’s position in Cyprus at the end of LC IIC and in LC IIIA, with comparisons being made with contemporary sites in an analysis that should have included Phlamoudhi-Melissa, an important settlement site and the only settlement excavated on the north coast, which like many others is abandoned at the close of LC IIC (J.S. Smith et al., eds., Views from Phlamoudhi, Cyprus, AASOR 63, American Schools of Oriental Research 2008). The settlement at HST may have been abandoned as unsafe after two successive destructions, according to the authors, with the inhabitants fleeing to Kition or overseas. Alternatively, or in addition, the natural silting of the HST harbor and drying of local climate may have contributed to the abandonment of the site. At present, the exact circumstances cannot be determined.

Consideration is made of HST’s relationships with Dromolaxia-Trypes, 1.5 km away, which the authors propose was an agrarian village and satellite of HST used for grain storage and redistribution. Unfortunately, the site has been poorly documented and heavily damaged. The relationship with Kition, located nearby under modern Larnaca, is also hard to establish. Kition has not yet revealed LC I remains, and so, the authors suggest, its founding may have been related to or initialized by HST. Without remains of administrative centers or other evidence, the question remains open. Geophysical work documented in chapter 8 has revealed what seem to be large buildings at HST, and these might be the administrative center.

In the meantime, the authors have painted a very plausible picture of LC IIC–IIIA Hala Sultan Tekke as a thriving commercial center with varied local craft production and far-flung international contacts. Discussion includes evidence for peoples of Italic and Aegean origin amid the destruction horizons, but wisely refrains from attributing all destructions to such “Sea Peoples.” Appendix 1, formatted as part of the last chapter, contains excellent and useful digital reconstructions of the buildings in CQ1 and 2, including the craft production taking place there.

Mara T. Horowitz
Purchase College
State University of New York

Book Review of Two Late Cypriot City Quarters at Hala Sultan Tekke: The Söderberg Expedition 2010–2017, by Peter M. Fischer and Teresa Bürge
Reviewed by Mara T. Horowitz
American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 125, No. 1 (January 2021)
Published online at
DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1251.Horowitz

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