What is at stake for Cyprus?

Cypriot urns recovered from smuggling ringUrns recovered from antiquities smuggling ring

Cyprus is home to a multitude of historical sites from the Neolithic (9th millennium-1520 BC), Bronze Age (2500-1050 BC), Archaic (750-480 BC), and Classical periods (480-310 BC). As a nation that can trace its history and culture back to the first signs of civilization in the seventh millennium BC, Cyprus has attracted the attention of both archaeologists and looters for centuries. The island’s location between the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa has helped to create a heritage influenced by Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman, and British cultures. It is a nation full of rich cultural and historical value which has been severely damaged over the centuries by illegal excavations and vandalism. 

In 1974, Cyprus was invaded by Turkey which resulted in a division that continues to persist. The northern region of the island is currently occupied by Turkish Cypriots while the southern is home to Greek Cypriots. The divide has led to a myriad of problems concerning Cyprus’ cultural heritage. The invasion itself led to deliberate destruction, looting, and pillaging of Cyprus’ ancient monuments and antiquities. Museums on occupied Cyprus have been plundered and many churches have been converted into stables, mosques and military bases. The Turkish citizens have ignored internationally binding treaties to protect Cyprus’ cultural heritage. Instead, they continue to carry out illegal excavations and sales of Cypriot artifacts. Illegally excavated items from Cyprus have been found all over the world, in catalogues and on sale at prestigious auction houses.

Read here for more information on Cyprus’ cultural heritage in the occupied areas.