Ancient Cyprus in the British Museum

Edited by Thomas Kiely

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Enkomi in the United Kingdom and Ireland

Many items from the 1896 excavations at Enkomi were subsequently donated by the Trustees of the British Museum to a number of institutions around the United Kingdom. This was part of a policy to provide regional museums, universities and leading public schools with material to expand their archaeological collections. In addition, some museums received donations of finds from later excavations at the site. The following section provides a brief overview of objects from Enkomi in museums the United Kingdom and Ireland known to the author. Also mentioned are some important donations from the British Museum to collections in Belgium and Germany. More information will be added as research into the dispersal of Cypriot antiquities within these islands develops over the next few years.

Birmingham, University of Birmingham, Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity

In 1902, the authorities of the recently-chartered Birmingham University approached the British Museum requesting some duplicate antiquities for use as teaching material. The Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities gave a small number of objects from the sites of Enkomi, Klavdia and ‘Paphos’ (possibly Koulkia) on Cyprus which had been excavated by the British Museum during the previous decade. Some items from Kameiros on Rhodes was also donated at the same time. A report submitted to the Trustees by A.S. Murray, the Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities, explained that there was a ‘considerable number’ of unwanted duplicates which had not been registered in the collection and which could therefore be given away. This material has not yet been studied by the author at the time of writing but will be the subject of future research. However, from the written descriptions and minute sketches in Murray’s report, it is clear that the Enkomi material included: a Base Ring I double-juglet; a Base Ring II bull askos; a White Shaved ware juglet; a Bucchero ware jug: several Mycenaean vessels (among them a three-handled pithoid jar and a jug); stone and bronze items.[1]

Dublin, National Museum of Ireland and Classical Museum, University College Dublin

The Classical Museum of University College Dublin contains a number of items from the 1896 excavations at Enkomi. These were given by the Trustees in 1912 on the request of the Rev. Prof. Henry Browne, the curator of what was then called the ‘Museum of Ancient History’. Items which can still be identified from this donation include: several Base Ring juglets; a Base Ring II bull-shaped askos; an ‘Astarte’ figurine; and various Mycenaean pieces, among them a stirrup jar and some Pictorial Style sherds.[2]

Manchester, Manchester Museum

Following an earlier donation of object from Amathus to the museum of Owens College (now the University of Manchester) in 1894, the Trustees supplied a further sample of duplicates form its later excavations, including Enkomi. These include several fragments of Mycenaean Pictorial Style pottery, and possibly one sherd of Minoan origin[3],  as well as several sherds form Pastoral Style kraters.


The French Archaeological Mission to Enkomi donated specimens of the contents of Tombs 5 and 11 of the 1949 campaign to the Ashmolean Museum.[4]

Two Mycenaean Pictorial Style sherds given by the British Museum in 1964 may also have come from Enkomi according to Crouwel and Morris, since the same donation included a fragment of a krater said to be from Enkomi Tomb 66.[5]  It must be born in mind however that numerous Pictorial Style sherds preserved in the British Museum were also found at Kourion, Hala Sultan Teeke and Maroni, not all of which can now be assigned to specific sites.[6]


In 1914, the recently-established museum of Reading University College approached the British Museum asking for duplicate archaeological material to expand their collection. Over 100 items in total were transferred, including some material from Cyprus excavated during the 1890s, particularly at Enkomi. The surviving documentation in the British Museum does not list in detail what was donated, while the archival material in the Ure Museum is also very limited, so it is not entirely certain that the objects said to derive from Enkomi in the Ure Museum registers were actually found there. The vessels in typical Late Cypriot wares (such as Monochrome, Base Ring, and White Slip) and some imported Mycenaean sherds, as well as a small stone mortar, are almost certainly from Enkomi. Several items of Iron Age date attributed to Enkomi are less certainly from this site. Although some Cypro-Archaic terracottas were found in a number of the LBA tombs, or else on the surface, no other Iron Age material is known to have been collected in 1896.

Enkomi overseas

In addition to donations to collections within the United Kingdom and Ireland , small groups of items from Enkomi were exchanged with foreign institutions for objects not represented in the British Museum. In 1904, the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire (Cinquantenaire) in Brussels, Belgium received a collection of 41 Cypriot and Mycenaean objects (pottery, bronze, stone, bone and ivory) from Enkomi in return for some material from the Early Bronze Age cemetery of Yortan in Mysia region of Turkey.[7]  Among the most important items were a terracotta boat model and a bronze bowl which, on cleaning, was found to have a Cypro-Minoan inscription.[8]  In addition were a dozen or so fragments of Mycenaean Pictorial Style pottery, some of which may form part of the same vessels as similar sherds in the British Museum.[9] 

The Glyptotek in Munch exchanged a fragment a vase from Naukratis, then thought to form part of a White Ground vase in the British Museum (BM Vase D1), for some samples of Mycenaean pottery from Enkomi.[10]

Among a small group of antiquities from Cyprus donated by the British Museum to the Otago Museum, New Zealand in 1935 were a few items which probably originated in the Enkomi excavations of 1896 (a Monochome cup and a Base Ring juglet). Klavdia was the source of most of the Mycenaean sherds in this collection.[11]   

  • ^ [1] - GR Reports April 1902–June 1903, fol. 17–20 (4 July, 1902).
  • ^ [2] - Souyoudzoglou-Haywood 2004, nos 73–74, 78–79, 81–85; Crouwel and Morris 1991, nos. 1–3.
  • ^ [3] - Crouwel 1986; Crouwel and Morris 1991, 154.
  • ^ [4] - Brown and Catling 1975, 85; cf. Schaeffer 1952.
  • ^ [5] - Crouwel and Morris 1991, 150.
  • ^ [6] - Bailey 1976, 30, Appendix A; cf. Crouwel 1986.
  • ^ [7] - The donation is recorded in GR Reports April 1902-June 1905, 226–7
  • ^ [8] - CVA Brussels 3 IIC, pl. 3, 3–20; Margos 1990. I am grateful to Dr Erik Gubel of the MRAH for providing me with images of these items.
  • ^ [9] - Crouwel and Morris 1991, 141–8.
  • ^ [10] - GR Reports April 1902-June 1905.
  • ^ [11] - Anson and Huband 2000, nos 35 and 37.
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