CULTURE

Cypriot antiquities on show

Featuring bird-like facial characteristics, large earrings hanging from oversized pierced ears and accentuated genitalia reminiscent of Eastern examples symbolizing the goddess of fertility, these statuettes of female bodies are certainly different. Dating back to 1450-1200 B.C., these pieces are among the most impressive items of «Cypriot Antiquities,» a permanent exhibition at the National Archaeological Museum’s new Cyprus gallery, which was officially launched late last week by the Greek and Cypriot presidents, Karolos Papoulias and Dimitris Christofias, respectively. The exhibition includes ornate prehistoric and archaic vases, votive figurines and sculptures bearing clear Greek influences. «Turkey must abandon its policy of looting and desecrating cultural heritage and must take measures right now,» noted Christofias at the opening. «It’s a crime that is being committed on top of the crime of the occupation of Cyprus,» he continued, while stressing that Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish communities had reached an agreement on the documentation of antiquities that exist on the entire island. The National Archaeological Museum’s collection of Cypriot antiquities is the result of a gradual process that began in the 19th century. Pivotal points have included purchases made by the Archaeological Society in 1879 as well as donations by collectors in 1880, 1895 and 1897. The collection was enhanced in the early 20th century with further purchases and donations as well as by an official antiquities exchange program that took place in 1928. The collection now numbers 850 items, covering all the periods of Cypriot history and art, from approximately 2500 B.C. to the 4th century A.D. «This is a long-term obligation being fulfilled today,» noted Greece’s Culture Minister Antonis Samaras at the opening, while adding that it «undoubtedly carries heavy symbolism.» On show at the exhibition are 180 items that not only depict the various aspects of life in ancient Cyprus – including religion, art and trade – but also document the unique qualities of Cypriot civilization and its historical ties with Greek culture.