“TRNC’s Bronze Age treasures could be looted”, say archaeologists

TRNC national treasures are in danger of being stolen or destroyed, claim amateur archaeologists in North Cyprus. Their concerns were raised after a follow-up visit to a site in the Karpaz peninsula in April, where they discovered efforts had been made to try to dislodge pieces of priceless Bronze Age statues.

The statues lie near the village of Yeni Erenköy on the northeast coast, and are mercifully difficult to find, a fact which has probably helped to preserve them until now.

They consist of two simple, three-dimensional carvings of standing males. One is completely loose, and has even become detached from its base over time: it probably weighs at least a tonne.

Its nearby companion is similar but much larger and lies half-buried on its side, still attached to the native rock it was being carved from when it was mysteriously abandoned by its sculptors some 5,000 years ago.

An impressive 4 metres in length, it probably weighs in the region of 4 tonnes, and would require considerable machinery to detach it from its bedrock and carry it away.

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Detail of base section, clearly showing signs of recent movement. Photo by Clarissa Bell


The smaller, fragmented statue would be easier to transport and a recent visit shows evidence of efforts to prise its base from the ground. Locals responding to photos recently posted on a Facebook group claim a tractor may have damaged the smaller one some time in the past.

Some distance from cultivated farm land, the area containing the statues is strewn with large boulders and covered in dense scrub, making it very difficult for machines to access. The unsuccessful attempt to move the sculpted piece has alarmed the visiting archaeologists.

Clarissa Bell, who is a frequent visitor to the island and a knowledgeable about its history and antiquities told T-VINE: “The statues seem to be completely unprotected. A photo I took in April clearly shows that recent attempts had been made to move the base of the smaller one. This is very worrying. People could be trying to loot these Bronze Age treasures.”

She added, “These are important remains, and could yet turn out to be key links with other sites: new finds are being made all the time these days. They deserve to be protected.”

The archaeologists’ fears are well-grounded. Local shopkeepers have told T-VINE they can even suggest the names of local tomb-robbers who might have their eye on the statues. The area has been plagued by looters for years.

The TRNC, while aware of the considerable heritage within its borders, claims it does not have the means to protect these valuable ancient national treasurers. Yet, if they could follow the examples set by countries such as Greece and Egypt, who make considerable tourist revenue out of their famous sites, the cost of maintaining the TRNC’s antiquities could be self-sustaining.

In order for this is to happen, the statues need to be recorded as part of a national programme to capitalise on the TRNC’s ancient sites. Efforts must also be made to protect sites from theft.

Yeni Erenköy statues

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Smaller statue lying from left to right, with the broken-off base section standing separately (bottom right). Photo by Clarissa Bell


The statues at Yeni Erenköy, made of local limestone, are thought to date from the early Bronze Age, meaning they could be in the region of 5,000 years old. The absence of stylistic details makes it difficult to identify their purpose or to link them to other sites and buildings found on the island.

The dimensions of the larger statue are similar to those of an empty carved niche, which can be seen at the coastal rock-tombs in Lambousa, in Alsancak, Girne, but no definite link has yet been established.

Main photo by Clarissa Bell of a large Bronze Age statue, lying on its  side, still attached to the limestone bedrock from which it was being  carved when the sculptors finally downed tools.