Archaeology Odyssey 9:1, January/February 2006

Alashiya Redux

Was it Cyprus?

By James D. MuhlyShelley WachsmannRobert S. Merrillees


By James D. Muhly

Virtually all references to ancient Alashiya refer to copper, which is found in abundance on Cyprus. If Alashiya is not Cyprus, no one would be able to identify the source of the principal metal (with tin) of the Bronze Age.

I first entered the Alashiya debate by delivering a paper at the First International Conference of Cypriot Studies, held in Nicosia in April 1969. At the time, I was at the beginning of my academic career and had no idea what I was doing to myself. Robert Merrillees also gave a paper on Alashiya at that conference, and we have been attacking each other ever since with great vim and vigor. I cannot imagine a more delightful or dedicated opponent. [In “An Odyssey Debate: Was Ancient ‘Alashiya’ Really Cyprus” (September/October 2005), Robert Merrillees argues that Alashiya was not Cyprus and Eric Cline argues that it was. —Ed.]

Does it matter where we place the kingdom of Alashiya? Yes, it does. If it turns out that Alashiya is not Cyprus, almost all of us would be forced to revise everything we have written about the eastern Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age. This is true because our history of Late Bronze Age Cyprus comes almost entirely from references to Alashiya in Akkadian, Hittite, Ugaritic and Egyptian texts.

The good news, however, is that such a revision is not necessary.

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