CYPRUS at The National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden

No need to mope on a gloomy day: visit the latest exhibition at the RMO in Leiden. You will learn more about Cyprus’ facinating past. Over 400 exhibits are waiting for you here, introducing you to a history spanning roughly 12,000 years.

One thing becomes clear: from the earliest discovery of this island, it became a very dynamic centre. Though the first people only seem to have used it several months a year, pretty soon others settled permanently.

All settlers introduced their own cultures while cultivating a wealth of natural sources. Of course, this is the island where Aphrodite was born, but before and after her came other deities and religions.

The island truly was an international hub where objects were traded, ideas exchanged and tastes raised to higher levels! Among the 400 objects are items from private collections, but also major archaeological treasures from international museums. Many are from the national collections of Cyprus.

The items range from tiny to huge. Included are not just pottery, terracotta, marble statues, jewelry, weapons, cauldrons and colourful mosaics – often imported from the Near East and Egypt. There is even a royal throne – though visitors can only admire it and certainly not sit on it.

From the early traces to Roman occupation, this rich island attracted people. As is explained in one of the exhibition rooms: its strategic location and natural wealth ensured, it developed into a crucial location along Mediterranean trade-routes.

All the ancient, different people who settled on this island and its many contacts with other cultures along the Mediterranean, ensured a fusion of a stunning number of cultural influences. The multi-culture fusion is one of the themes of the exhibition.

As all people left traces, this island is very important to archeologists and historians. Unfortunately, rich as it now is in important sites, it not just attracted archeologists – from before archeology started. The many precious, unique, important sites also attracted robbers, illegal diggers, a criminal and illegal trade in priceless objects. This is another theme in this exhibition.

The exhibition is beautifully designed. Most texts are in English, but there is also a free English audio tour available. It is seriously recommended, as there is so much to see and discover. 

Accompanying the exhibition is a catalogue with contributions from an international team of specialists. It offers background and more information on topics from this exhibition. As the museum explains: “… Several chapters focus on the highlights of Cypriot art in the collections of the museums of Cyprus, Stockholm, and Leiden. All this is illustrated with beautiful photos of the island and of objects from the exhibition”. This book is available at the RMO museum shop which is always well-stocked with interesting gifts and books.     Kate    7th November 2019

The exhibition continues until 15th March 2020.