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The Kourion area:
history, culture and burial customs

[Note: The term Kourion is used here to describe the general area of the lower Kouris Valley presumed to be the settlement core of the historical kingdom, as well as the immediate surroundings of the ancient acropolis. Specific archaeological sites, such as Episkopi-Bamboula or Erimi-Pitharka, for instance, are named with reference to the nearest village or town and a place-name according to the commonly employed practice of Cypriot archaeologists.]


The ancient Kourion area has produced evidence for human occupation extending from the middle of the tenth millennium BC to the present day. The earliest chapters of this long story are not widely represented in the British Museum collections, because sites dating to before the Bronze Age were generally overlooked by 19th-century excavators, especially those sites that required highly specialised fieldwork techniques which had not been developed in the Victorian era. Moreover, the sample of material from sites of later date which was retained by the British Museum team and other early excavators in the area was highly selective and does not reflect the more detailed and rounded picture of these cultures revealed by modern archaeology.

The acropolis of Kourion, looking west over the ruins of the Late Roman basilica


Earlier excavators rarely examined settlements, and commonly ignored objects from tombs that were regarded as aesthetically or historically uninteresting, such as coarse or undecorated pottery. Human remains were also routinely neglected, though in many cases this was due to respect for the dead, with the bones being quickly reburied after excavation, rather than lack of scientific interest.

In order to place the British Museum collections from Kourion in a modern archaeological and geographical framework, there follows a general overview of the prehistory and history of the area in antiquity. As many of the finds in this catalogue were found in tombs, the burial customs of the different periods represented are also described to provide information on the original context of these objects in the light of modern archaeological scholarship.