Ages and Days in Cyprus.
by Einar Gjerstad
Having decided to tell the story of the Swedish Cyprus Expedition, it is perhaps proper to begin by relating how this expedition became a reality, especially since the question "Why did you decide to undertake an expedition to Cyprus?" has often been asked of me by many persons over a number of years. There are, after all, so many archaeologically interesting countries in the world. Why then was Cyprus chosen in preference to others? To answer that question I must tell a story, which by now is rather well known.
The following scene took place during the month of March 1922. Professor Axel W. Persson of Uppsala was travelling to Greece. In a railway station in Serbia he struck up a conversation with a lively and nervous, somewhat oriental-looking man in his fifties. He asked the professorís destination, and was told that Persson was on his way to Asine in Greece to conduct archaeological excavations. "I am absolutely mad about archaeology", exclaimed this new found acquaintance. "What nationality are you, Professor?" When he learned that Professor Persson was from Sweden, he became a volcano of cordiality, embraced Persson and cried: "Well then we are almost compatriots. You see I am the Swedish consul in Cyprus! My name is Luke Zenon Pierides. My father was also the Swedish Consul, and when Norway and Sweden separated, he was offered the position of consul for Norway. This he refused and remained faithful to Sweden to his death. What a privilege and pleasure to meet a representative of this noble and high-minded nation!" After some further conversation, the consul suddenly asked: "Could you let me borrow five pounds, Professor Persson? I ran into some bad luck. The Serbian Customs took all my money and I canít get any more until I reach Constantinople."
Professor Persson made a mental calculation: "Five pounds is five pounds, and quite possibly I will never see the money again. Of course there is a chance that this man is telling the truth, and if he is indeed the Swedish Consul, it would be an insult to deny him the loan." Persson thus lightened his wallet by five pounds sterling and gave them to Pierides. Pierides started to talk about Cyprus, about his home in Larnaca, containing a magnificent collection of Cypriot antiquities, he further inquired if the Swedes had considered any excavations on Cyprus and urged Persson to persuade a young Swedish archaeologist to travel to Cyprus in order to start some thorough archaeological research. After a few more minutes of archaeology and Sweden, Pierides asked to borrow another five pounds. He promised that Professor Persson would have the money without fall on his arrival in Athens. The Professor, who was not only an optimist, but also had a big heart, complied this time also with Pieridesí request, but he confessed that he did not feel very optimistic when he went to inquire for his money in Athens. However, the money had indeed arrived, together with a letter from Pierides, again urging Persson to arrange for the Swedes to undertake an archaeological invasion of Cyprus. One pleasant summer-night in Asine in Greece, the kind of night when anything seems possible, Professor Persson discussed the issue with me, and recommended that I accept Pieridesí invitation. I really did not know anything about Cyprus and so said, yes, without too much deliberation. The unknown beckoned.
In October 1923 my wife and I travelled to Cyprus, landing in Larnaca, where Pierides received us with open arms. The unknown met me in the shape of an enormous material from the Bronze Age ready to be studied. The curator of the Cyprus Museum, Menelaos Markides, a scholar who had been archaeologically trained in England, had shortly before my arrival excavated numerous tombs from the Bronze Age. The poor man, however, fell ill with Parkinsonís disease and was incapable of doing scientific work. Generously he left his carefully excavated material to me for studies. To complete the evidence of the the finds in the tombs I carried out stratigraphic excavations of three settlements. In February, 1926, I published the results of my studies in a dissertation, "Studies on Prehistoric Cyprus". I realized after returning from my first visit to Cyprus, that a Swedish expedition could make a meaningful archaeological contribution...
Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology
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