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ENGOMI ANCIENT CITY RUINS (Alasia)


Although archaeological excavations have shown that the earliest settlement in the area was made during the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, Enkomi seems to have appeared on the historical scene during the 18th century BC. Excavations carried out at various sites have shown that metallurgical activity in Enkomi and several other sites in Cyprus increased during the Late Bronze Age (1650-1050 BC). This is the period in which the correspondence between the pharaoh and  the king of a country referred to as Alasia took place. The letters are baked clay tablets inscribed in the cuneiform script in Akkadian, the international language of the time. They are found in the palace of the pharaoh Akhenaten at Tell el Amarna in Upper Egypt and date from the second  quarter of the 14th century BC. In some of these tablets the king of Alasia promises the pharaoh copper for silver and luxury goods. Similar references to the same country are encountered in other tablets from Egypt, Syria and Anatolia between the 18th century and 12th century BC. When such information is brought together one ends up learning that Alasia supplied copper to Syria and Anatolia, that this country was an island with a king and a fleet, in the 14th century it was an ally of Egypt and an enemy of the Hittites, and it was - together with Greece, the Aegean, Anotolia and Syria - overrun by the so-called 'Sea People' in about 1200 BC. Despite some major blocks against it, some scholars tend to believe that Alasia of ancient sources is either Cyprus as a whole or the city of Enkomi by itself. Excavations in Enkomi have brought to light several distinct sections of the city where metallurgy was practiced. In some of these not only finished bronze objects for sale but other objects which give the impression of large scale metallurgical activity were found. Among these were unworked copper shaped like an oxide - the form in which copper  was transported - fragmentary vessels, the waste left over from the casting process, scrap metal whic must have been set aside for smelting, and smith's tools. The objects  discovered in the tombs indicate that in the 13th century BC the Achaeans began to settle in Cyprus and Enkomi, gave the island's economy new vigor.  Most of the ruins surviving to the present day belong to the city which was rebuilt  after the destruction of 1200 BC. This new city had straight streets which cut each other at right angles. The public buildings and sanctuaries were constructed from  ashlar blocks and occupied the rectangles left among the streets. The central town square was Paved With stone slabs. The city was surrounded by massive walls. After the  devastation of the 'Sea People' (1200 BC) the city never completelyrecovered. Although new arrivals from the Aegean and the Mediterranean followed, Enkomi never recovered its ancient splendor. By then its inlandharbour beside  the city on the Pedios river (Kanlıdere) was already silted and its end was brought about by an earthquake in 1075 BC. Its last inhabitants are thought to have  moved to the sea side and founded Salamis.

Northern Cyprus Department of Antiquities and Museums Directorate