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Developed in The Bronze Age during The Late Cypriot period c. 1625 - 1050 B.C.E., The Cypro-Minoan form of writing is a variation of the earlier systems of Linear A and Linear B script.

As is the common in the development of writing systems, Cyprus experienced a growth of urban centers along its eastern and southern coasts during this period and trade and industry flourished leading to a new age of cultural life. The need for a script for administrative purposes grew. The earliest document containing an inscription is a clay tablet fragment found at Enkomi and dated to c. 1500 B.C.E. The characters show close ties to the Linear A of Crete, though some scholars say that there aren't any Aegean influences.

Few examples of the early script exist. Aside from the tablet mentioned before, there is a cylinder seal and a loomweight from the same site as well as a vase from Katydhata with an inscription on the handle. Influences are hard to place; the technique of the production of the tablets themselves suggests Near Eastern influence. Later tablets were engraved in a style which reflects cuneiform writing. If Cretan origins are accepted for Cypro-Minoan script, the explanation as to how the script came to Cyprus remains. It has been projected that Cypriot and Cretan traders met in Syria, perhaps in Ugarit, where the script was exchanged.

Later developments of the script occur around the late 13th century B.C.E. This newer type of writing appears at Enkomi in the form of large tablets. They are usually rectangular and cushion-shaped or cylinder-shaped and are baked in furnaces. The script is divided into long vertical columns which is similar to the Near Eastern ways of writing. The average size of the tablets if 22 x 19 cm judging by the fragments found so far. It is thought that they are literary or religious texts in some sort of verse. The script itself consists of 60 signs and is quite different from the earlier form of the writing which is hard distinguish in terms of specific characters. Another later development of the language was found at Ugarit on which is listed in typical fashion Semitic proper names. Twenty of the twenty-five names on the tablet have been deciphered, but the actual meanings of the language itself remain unknown.

Attempts to decipher the script have failed. It does not have basis in Greek, since the influx of Mycenaeans began much later than 1500 B.C.E. Much like Linear A, it is very difficult to understand. It has been thought that the language might be Hurrian based, but artifacts found in Cyprus cannot verify that claim. Examples of the script have been found also at Kition and Palaepahos, indicating the wide diffusion of use of the script.

Use of the script continues through the 12th century B.C.E. The confusion here is that Mycenaeans had come to power in the ruling classes of the island and would have likely brought their Linear B script along with them. A potential explanation is that they employed local scribes who continued using the old writing systems.

The Realm of Alashiya

Alashiya or Asy is the way that Cyprus itself is commonly referenced in Near Eastern texts. It is impossible to obtain facts about the early history of the island from The Cypro-Minoan script itself, but Alashiya is often mentioned in association with copper (for which the island is well known) in the tablets of Alalakh and Mari c. the 18th and 17th centuries B.C.E. Some scholars remain skeptical of associating Alashiya with Cyprus, but most agree that they must have been the same since Alashiya is specifically called an island in Near Eastern texts, so there could be no other island that it would have referenced during this period.

Documentation from the mid-14th century B.C.E. between the pharaoh Akhenaton of Egypt and the king of Alashiya indicates that the two nations were close allies. Letters between the two leaders show that Alashiya was concerned that Egypt would forge a treaty with the Hittites who were the largest enemies of Alashiya. In exchange for this consideration, the two nations exchanged oil, wood, ivory, ebony and gold. In another letter, the king of Alashiya speaks of the great plague which arrived after an earthquake c. mid-14th century B.C.E. and killed many people. This event may have occured at the same time as the destruction of Enkomi c. 1375 B.C.E. Another theory suggests that the raiding bands of Lukki caused the fall of the city.

References to Alashiya appear later in the 13th through the early 12th centuries B.C.E. speaking of the disturbances in the East Mediterranean due to the nomadic bands of the Sea People.


Sources:

Vassos Karageorghis. Cyprus from the Stone Age to the Romans.
http://www.geocities.com/indoeurop/project/script/linea4.jpg — replica of the script characters themselves

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