University at Albany, State University of New York
in partial fulfillment of requirements
for graduation with Honors in Anthropology
graduation from the Honors College.
Research Advisor: Stuart Swiny, Ph.D.
Abstract The Early Bronze Age of Cyprus is not a very well understood chronological period of the island for a variety of reasons. These include: the inaccessibility of the northern part of the island after the Turkish invasion, the lack of a written language, and the fragility of Cypriot artifacts. Many aspects of protohistoric Cypriot life have become more understood, such as: the economic structure, social organization, and interactions between Cyprus and Anatolia. Despite this improvement in some areas, religion is still largely not understood. With the arrival of new animals and symbols, there is clearly a shift in reverence. However, how this shift came about and what these new practices represented is not clear.
This paper analyzes these new practices and symbols in light of the surrounding mainland, specifically the Levant, Anatolia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. By analyzing the similarities between these various cultures and Cyprus through pottery and iconographic representations, and understanding the temporal contexts of these changes, the determination of whether or not ideologies were transmitted to Cyprus or originated on the island will be concluded.
Three aspects of Early Bronze Age Cypriot religion will be examined: fertility, bulls, and snakes. Then, a comprehensive analysis of the possible transmission of a fusion goddess with Levantine, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian qualities will be undertaken. It is my conclusion that the bull cult originated in Anatolia and made its way through the mass migration of its population to Cyprus in the mid-third millennium. The snake cult has more shadowy origins but most likely began on the island itself, but took qualities from the populations the islanders interacted with. Last, Inanna-Ištar was brought to Cyprus during the latter half of the third millennium, most likely through the Temple of Byblos where Ba’alat Gebal was worshipped.
Acknowledgements I have had many people assist me in the course of writing this thesis. Professor Rafferty had the confidence in me to allow me the opportunity to work at this topic despite the extreme delay in starting it. I never would have been able to do this paper and complete the courses I need to obtain my Honors Anthropology major without his assurance of my abilities. Also, thank you to Professor Swiny, who, even though he had plenty of work to do, was willing to take me as an advisee and assist me with this project. Although I didn’t know a single thing about Cyprus, let alone ancient Cyprus, he gave me the opportunity to prove myself and assisted me throughout the entire process with any questions I had and talking me through the ideas that went through my head.
Table of Contents Abstract
Methods of Analysis……………………………………………………………………………...6
Modes of Cultural Diffusion…………………………………………………………………….6
Diffusion of Religion………………………………………………………………………8
Status of the Cypriot Population………….…………………………………………………….9
In Conjunction with Bull Iconography…………………………………………..32
Transmission of Ištar-Hathor to Cyprus……………………………………………………...33
The third millennium B.C.E. for Cyprus (Figure I) was a time of dramatic change for the island that had previously been characterized by its markedly intense isolation. Over the span of a thousand years, the island underwent three distinct phase changes: the Late Chalcolithic (3000-2500 B.C.E.), Philia (2500-2350 B.C.E.), and the Early Cypriot Bronze Age (2500-2000 B.C.E) (Steel, 2004). The reason for this overlap of the latter two phases is because of the continuance of multiple Chalcolithic settlements into the Early Bronze Age (EBA) and the overlap of pottery styles for which much of the chronological system is based (Morris, 1985).
Before this millennium, the Cypriots had been living in relative isolation, taking practices from the Levantine mainland from where they are most likely to have originated (Price, 1977). At this point, practices began to diverge, bringing a character to Cyprus that was all its own. There are a number of possible explanations proposed by scholars for the changes that occurred during the Late Chalcolithic phase. One possibility is a changing social organization on the island that resulted in a stratification of social classes. This developing social pattern resulted in an emerging elite that saw Anatolian practices as something to adopt to stand out or better themselves. Also, a system of communication between Cyprus and Anatolia may have developed that was not focused on social hierarchy or on movement of people, but an exchange of materials and ideas (Kouka, 2011). The final explanation, and the most likely, is the immigration of Anatolian migrants onto Cyprus (Kouka, 2011; Dikaios, 1962; Swiny, 1986) Many scholars argue on the side of insularity, that the people of the island experienced their development among themselves with little to no impact from outside influences (Stewart, 1962; Merrillees, 1973; Held, 1993).
There are a variety of ways in which the culture of the island changed at the transition point of the Philia phase: social complexity, trade connections, pottery styles, agricultural technology, etc. The strategic location of this island and the valuable resources that are plentiful made it an area of interest to the surrounding mainland, positioned 40 miles south of Turkey and 60 miles to the west of Syria (Taeuber, 1955). Also changing on the island were the religious practices of the people, an aspect of Cypriot life that experienced a dramatic change over the course of a thousand years as it became more open to contact with many groups around the Mediterranean. The religion of the Cypriots can be examined through a variety of social practices and material culture, as religion was often both a result and cause of the lifestyle of the Cypriots. For example, the increasing practice of metallurgy seems to have caused a shift from a less egalitarian society and gradually towards a more stratified social organization in the north of Cyprus (Webb and Frankel, 2013; Bolger, 1996).
The following will discuss the impact of the surrounding civilizations, primarily the Levant and Anatolia, on the shifts in religious belief systems on Cyprus. This will be done through a comparative analysis of Levantine, Anatolian, and Cypriot religious beliefs, and a close examination of the archaeological evidence examining possible relationships. First will be a brief discussion on the study of religion and the modes of cultural diffusion, followed by a discussion of Cypriot beliefs and then a discussion on the possible connections that find their origin in external countries. Also to be discussed is the transmission of an Ištar-Hathor fusion goddess to Cyprus as a possible descendant to the cruciform figures of the Chalcolithic and a precursor to the eventual Aphrodite cult that found its home on Cyprus. The insularity of Cyprus will also be taken into consideration, as divergence and evolution of beliefs is critical to the examination of the characteristic Cypriot religion.
Methods of Analysis
There are a variety of ways in which someone can explore the aspects of religion in a prehistoric civilization. The primary obstacle to get past is the lack of written records, not only in the region of focus but in surrounding localities that likely had contact with it. While written records provide a more direct interpretation of the ideologies of the people in question, iconographic representations, such as stars and zig-zags, must be analyzed depending upon context. Context itself depends on a variety of factors: 1) other symbols that it interacts with or is surrounded by, 2) the item on which it is found, and 3) the location in which it is found. Even with these three factors in mind, accurate interpretation is difficult and can only be held up with any definite validity if other instances in which it is found occur in a proportionately high amount and/or if cultural similarities provide enough evidence to suggest a definite correlation.
The Early Bronze Age of Cyprus lacked written records and so the primary objects of focus were: pottery, figurines, and specific iconography. By analyzing these various aspects of visual culture we may be able to understand the development of the new religious system in Cyprus. By comparative analysis with the surrounding populations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Anatolia, and the approximate date that certain symbols and practices were adopted in Cyprus in comparison to other areas, we may be able to begin seeing a connection of traditions.
Modes of Cultural Diffusion
The process of cultural diffusion is not one of simplicity. Very often one will not find a direct transmission of ideas and behavior from one culture to the next, but instead must look at certain avenues of transportation to find where both the origin and the final location are. The paths of cultural diffusion that will be examined throughout the course of this investigation of comparative religions will be the following: trade, migration, and political contact. The separation of these three methods will not be an easy task, as they are all very interconnected, especially with the onset of the Early Bronze Age and the sudden increase in trade throughout the Mediterranean.
According to Oosterbeek (2001), there are four types of change that are important to take into consideration in this study:
1. Deviation: "change caused by a non-predictable separation from the rule;"
2. Evolution: "progressive change dominated by assimilation procedures;"
3. Revolution: "dramatic change, dominated by accommodation procedures, be them derived from external or internal factors;"
4. Mutation: "change that leads to a final result with limited relations with its origins."
These four methods of change can be seen in the development of the religious traditions of Cyprus from the beginning of the third millennium B.C.E. to the transition into the second millennium. The characteristic insularity of Cyprus that occurred in two important phases (the Neolithic separation from the mainland after the first successful permanent settlements on the island and the Early Bronze Age collapse of maritime trade in the Eastern Mediterranean that resulted in the second separation of the islanders from the surrounding land) caused the distinct variations of religious practices that were transmitted to the island (Webb and Frankel, 2013). The further division on the island itself between the northern conglomeration of settlements and those of the south created further divisions as social and economic organizations differed between the two areas. Both of these important components of diversity and its effect on the adoption of religious principles will be gone into further detail later on.
Diffusion of Religion
The study of religious diffusion across cultures, or more specifically the process of syncretism (religious traditions merging), has changed significantly over the past few decades. There has been a shift from seeing this process as resistance to an oppressive culture or for instituting a new political administration to one where it occurs in order to maintain cultural traditions while accommodating to the new ideologies introduced to the population (Shaw and Stewart, 1994). Much of the focus of the scholarship of religion has been to establish a system of continuity both between cultures and within a culture (Marcus and Flannery, 1994). This is evident in the examination of the cultural transmission of Inanna-Ištar from Mesopotamia to Syria to Cyprus, and to as far as the Greek mainland. It can also be seen in much of the research surrounding the interpretation of Bronze Age figurines in relation to those produced in the Chalcolithic, the need to find a continuation for the meaning of one period's figurines to those of the next. While there may indeed be a connection, it is also just as possible that an abrupt shift occurred and they do not carry the same meaning, only the same general purpose of acting as a symbol.
The meaning of symbol is an important concept to discuss before going into discussion about the religion of Cyprus and its similarities to those on the mainland areas around it. According to Briault (2007), a "cult symbol" is a "whole complex of material representations" that are common throughout a region. They can occur as concrete objects, painted forms, or in glyptic forms. Such a view of symbols will be helpful in understanding the possible influences of the mainland on the shift in religious practices in Cyprus during the Early Bronze Age and the continuation of traditional practices by the ancient Cypriots as they learned to adapt to the influx of new ideas brought from traders and settlers.
Sperber (1985) provides a useful analysis of the diffusion of religion, comparing it to the biological mechanism of infectious disease. The success of the representation passed from one culture to the next depends upon how relevant they are to the new population, how this culture can connect features of its society to the incoming one. If the existing population has a society so markedly different from the one where these new ideas are passing, then the religion will find no firm holding as a prevalent institution in the new region. Also important is what occurs with the symbols or ideas themselves if they have experienced successful transmission. If the symbols are easy to remember, they will continue in intact form. However, if they are too difficult, they will be changed into a more familiar context, an idea which may provide useful explanation further in this paper. The transmission of Inanna-Ištar to Cyprus may have undergone significant change due to the need to accommodate to already present systems of belief on the island; therefore, it was translated into established methods of art or modified by the movement of Anatolian ideas onto the island as well. Cyprus became a melting-pot at the opening of the Early Bronze Age, allowing it to be examined as a useful example for this theory of the diffusion of religion and the interaction of multiple religious traditions in a relatively isolated community.
Status of the Cypriot Population
For much of Cyprus's prehistory, the island was left in isolation from the surrounding mainland. The reason for this is not understood, and if there was any minimal contact, there is little to no evidence of it occurring. However, this insularity was important for the development of Cyprus up until the Early Bronze Age and influenced the way outside influences impacted its culture. This isolation from the mainland helped to ensure an economic and cultural stability of the island's population for much of its Neolithic and Bronze Age history (Held, 1993).
Prior to the large Anatolian migration of the Early Bronze Age, Cyprus possibly experienced two important migrations of people during the Neolithic. The first was during the tenth millennium B.C.E., when hunter-gatherers made their way to the island, and the second occurred during the seventh millennium B.C.EC.E., and may have been a transition of population from the Syro-Cilican region to Cyprus (Held, 1993).
Prior to the beginning of the ECI period, the island seems to have been linked by a common cultural identity. By about 2300 B.C.E., increasing cultural variation began to form between the north and the south of the island, probably caused by the increasing influence of the Anatolians that settled on the island around 2450 B.C.E. Webb and Frankel (2013) provide two possible reasons for this division between regions: 1) an increase in population within a settlement decreased the demand for communication and trading with other settlements, and 2) the eastern Mediterranean trading system had collapsed in the latter half of the third millennium B.C.E. probably causing a decrease in demand for copper on the island. This second possibility would result in a decreased need for certain settlements to deal with other settlements when the primary motivation was obtaining copper for production and trade. Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt were experiencing a tumultuous period in their civilizations and Anatolia and the Aegean were also experiencing a period of decline and collapse near the end of the EB II. This forced Cyprus back into a period of insularity, most likely allowing them to culturally adapt the ideologies they had picked up from this sudden period of foreign interactions and shape it into a religion that was characteristically Cypriot in nature.
The question of migration and the extent to which it influenced the Cypriot islanders has been a major question for Cypriot archaeologists focusing on the Early Bronze Age. Several ideas occurring along a spectrum have been presented in an effort to solve this question. Theories range from: large migrations that forced major change on Cyprus (Dikaios, 1962); migratory influence but not to such an extreme (Swiny, 1986); and insularity (Stewart, 1962; Merrillees, 1973). Manning (1993) suggested that the rising of a social hierarchy in northwestern Cyprus led to changes in Cypriot culture, economy, and political organization as they searched for foreign goods to increase their wealth and prestige. This idea combines both insularity and foreign influence, but does not focus on an influx of immigrants into Cyprus. Knapp (1993) proposed a possibility that works with Manning's idea, that the rising social complexity spurred increased trade both within and outside the island. Kouka (2011) sums up nicely the various possibilities as to how the Philia phase arose: the incorporation of Anatolian works by a Cypriot elite as Cyprus shifted from an egalitarian society to one of social hierarchy, a movement from south/southwest Anatolia to Cyprus, or contact between the regions prior to the EBA. Many arguments work along these lines, feeling more comfortable along the middle of the spectrum.
The argument presented here is that the Anatolian migration of the Early Bronze Age created an important shift in the religious beliefs of Cypriot ideology. The belief presented here is that the effect of migration on different aspects of Cypriot life cannot be examined as a whole, but must be looked at in its parts. For example, the examination of the effect of Anatolian migrants on social complexity will be different than the extent to which the same migration affected the economic production of Cypriot settlements. Each aspect of Cyprus must be examined separately rather than as a whole, and, in this specific case, the religion of Cyprus was affected to a large degree by the influx of Anatolian migration, contributing greatly to the bull cult that arose on the island and making changes to the fertility ideology of the religion.
The change in Cypriot social and environmental conditions changed drastically at the opening of the Early Bronze Age due to the onset of the copper trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. There are many possible reasons for the movement of people from Anatolia to Cyprus in the early third millennium B.C.E., but two of the favored suggestions are: 1) simply a movement of people to a new location in attempt for new opportunities, or 2) a movement of refugees fleeing incoming marauders (Pilides, 2008). Swiny (1989) and Webb and Frankel (2013) also point out the importance of copper in the newly developing economic sphere of the Eastern Mediterranean as the establishment of the Bronze Age was occurring in much of the surrounding mainland. As Cyprus contained a plentiful supply of copper ore, those who knew of it came to the island to exploit the resources, especially in the western and central parts where the concentration was highest due to the mountain range. Southeastern Anatolia was involved in trading routes between the northeast Aegean, the Cyclades, and Greece (Webb and Frankel, 2013), and the finding of large copper sources in Cyprus allowed a surge in production of trade material.
It is believed that the people from Anatolia entered the island near Vasilia in the north of the island (Webb and Frankel, 2013). This conclusion makes sense in light of the intense impact of Anatolian influence on the nearby sites of Lapithos, Karmi Palealona, and Bellapais Vounous. These sites represent the most dramatic shift of religious beliefs and social change in Cyprus during this time period, most probably due to the occurrence of Anatolian migrants landing on the island in these locations and then settling down within the nearby settlements. Despite the intensity of change and the likelihood of these locations as the ports of entry, there is a difficulty in understanding aspects of the region due to the closing off of the area to archaeological investigation when the island was politically divided in 1974 (Webb and Frankel, 2013). The settlement of Pyrgos-Mavrorachi supports Swiny's argument of the push for copper resources in the expansion of people and the onset of the Bronze Age in Cyprus, although there is little doubt in the scholarly community that copper was an important motivating factor for the development of this period. Pyrgos has been revealed to be a major center of copper production in Cyprus, a workshop uncovered that had separate places for metallurgy and washing. This settlement shows evident traces of the production of copper products that were most likely traded with other settlements (Belgiorno, 2000). This settlement may reveal significant evidence for the transition of culture and religion in Cyprus as it shows signs of Chalcolithic habitation (two idols were found, one made of steatite, the other stone) and plank-shaped Red Polished idol fragments from the Middle Bronze Age, showing continuation through a significant cultural period of change.
The excavation of three major Philia phase settlements allowed for the construction of a chronology that exhibited the characteristics of the shifting ideologies and techniques of the Cypriots in accordance with the influx of Anatolian migrants from the mainland: Philia-Vasilikos, Kyra-Kaminia, and Kyra-Alonia (Pilides, 2008). Marki-Alonia also revealed very close connections to Anatolia, suggesting that it was another major settlement experiencing newfound relations with this group of people.
Before entering discussion on the effect of Anatolia on Cypriot religion, evidence of Anatolian contact and migration must be examined. What is more important is not the proof of migration itself, but that there is evidence linking the two locations together to such an extent that there is clear influence shown, whether produced by the settling of Anatolian migrants or by trade that occurred between the two areas.
Evidence of Influence in Cypriot Environment
In Pyrgos, there is evidence of Anatolian influence on several amphorae that were found in tombs of the settlement. In Tomb XVI, a Red Polished amphora shows an Anatolian idol in relief that is similar to a vase from Kosk Hoyuk in the Early Bronze Age. In Tomb XXI, another amphora with horned horizontal handles and a biconical body shows a relationship to a Beycesultan pattern in Level XIV of the Early Bronze Age II. Also, several bronze tools show similarities to those found in Kusura in Anatolia (Belgiorno, 1995). There are also several vases that have human faces on them (Belgiorno, 1995; Kouka, 2011). These humans are similar to metal figurines in Troy II, Alaca Hoyuk, Horoztepe, and Hasnoglan and disc-faced figurines in western and central Anatolia (Kouka, 2011).
One of the most probable transmissions of Anatolian culture to Cyprus is the production of Red Polished Ware. The red bowls, vessels, and pottery of Anatolian-inspired design became present in Cyprus during the third millennium B.C.E. This is due either to contact occurring between the two regions over an extended period of time or because of comingling of populations on the island over an extended period of time (Kouka, 2011). The favored opinion is habitation of Anatolians on Cyprus. Various earrings have been found in Tomb VI at Sotira (electrum), Kissonerga (bronze), and Tomb VI of Marki-Davari (bronze) that are similar in design to those at Troy II (Kouka, 2011; Swiny, 2003).
The influence of the immigrants did not only exist in the formation of artifacts such as grave goods and domestic figurines, but also in the economic and architectural developments of the time period. The importation of cattle from the mainland with the migrants resulted in the use of the plow in agriculture (singlehandedly revolutionizing the economy and food supply of the island), new funerary practices, a transition from circular formations to buildings in rectilinear structures, and the search for copper resources (especially in the Troodos mountains) (Swiny, 1989).
Also present in Marki are horseshoe-shaped hearths that have a similar occurrence in northeast Anatolia and in Syria-Palestine and that most likely served a cultic purpose. These hearths, though common prior to the third millennium in northeast Anatolia, became a widespread occurrence throughout Syro-Palestine at this time (Takaoğlu, 2000). The possibility of this transmission of the hearths, if it is in fact transmission rather than independent invention, most likely occurred through the Syro-Palestinian route, especially when taking into consideration the amount of other material that was probably transmitted from this region. Also, the simple problem of distance presents the idea that the bringing of this idea from a large expanse of land and then over sea is unlikely. The appearance of these hearths in the Levant during the third millennium B.C.E. also occurs at a chronologically contemporary time frame as the Philia phase and Early Bronze Age, creating a stronger link as to why the transmission would have occurred in conjunction with other ideas and objects. These hearths have been located in Beth Shan and Beth Yerah in Palestine, Tabara el-Akrad, Tell el-Judeideh, Tell Tainat, and Tell Dahab in the Amuq plain. The most significant difference of these hearths in comparison to the one in Cyprus is the depiction of incised decoration, while those in Syro-Palestine depict anthropomorphic figures (Takaoğlu, 2000). This could be as simple as an artistic preference that differed between these two regions or a different emphasis on certain decorative material between the two populations.
Gjerstad (1980) suggested that the Cilicia region in southeast Anatolia may have had an important impact on the Philia Culture of Cyprus. Connections have been made between the toggle pins with the chiseled clefts of EBII Tarsus, tanged knives with those from Karatas-Semayuk, and earrings with EBII Tarsus earrings. Also, three objects from Sotira-Kaminoudhia may have originated in bronze objects transported from Anatolia around the EBII due to the tin found in said objects; the objects themselves were manufactured in Cyprus. This final notice suggests that some of the metal used by Cypriot smiths (whether of native Cypriot or Anatolian birth) used Anatolian metal to create its products (Swiny, 1985; Balthazar, 1990).
Anatolia is not the only location with evidence of interaction with Cyprus. At Bellapais-Vounous Levantine imports have been found (Swiny, 1991). Also present at Sotira Kaminoudhia are gaming stones which may have been transmitted to the island either from the Levant or Egypt (Swiny, 2003). These gaming stones have also been located at Kissonerga Mosiphilia and Lemba Lakkous.
Also present is evidence of contact between the city of Byblos in modern-day Lebanon and Cyprus towards the end of the third millennium B.C.E. What seem to have been cult objects in a sacred area that represented a shrine may have been of Cypriot origin and characteristic of the Red Polished Ware tradition. Included in this array were animal figures (including rams, doves, bulls, ducks, and less distinct quadrupeds and birds), horn vessels, ring-vessels, and jugs. Many of these objects seems to have come from Vounous, considering the style and make of the objects. (Negbi, 1972). Considering the major religious significance of this Cypriot city and the religious importance of Byblos for both the Levant and Egypt, this exchange of material and use of objects as symbolic units of religious practice in a new location is not surprising. If Byblos was indeed the locus point from which many Levant objects came across the small stretch of water separating the two locations, this interaction between the two locations would make sense as their belief systems would have a great degree of similarity.
Evident, also, is the expanding trade system in the eastern Mediterranean between the Cyclades, mainland Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, and the Levant (Knapp, 2008; Merrillees, 1979). At this time, faience products, metal, and pottery were being distributed throughout all of these areas, increasing interaction between previously closed-off locations. The development of metallurgy on Cyprus has been suggested as a product of not only the introduction of techniques from Anatolia, but also of this increasing trade system with the need to keep up with demands and to continue being active in this profitable economic sphere. The north coast seems to have been more active in this trade system, Webb et. Al (2006) noting particular activity at Vasilia. This may show evidence for the increasing state of regionalism occurring in Cyprus at this time.
Another important factor to recognize when understanding the spread of ideologies throughout Cyprus is the connections between settlements on the island in conjunction with the spread of ideologies from the mainland. Trade occurred between settlements as well, including pottery, metal goods, food, and more, establishing relationships between these locations and therefore transporting ideas as well.
Vasilia seems to be an important settlement of intra-island trading. The settlement shows evidence of a surplus of products that indicate stocks held by merchants and lead isotope analysis of the metalwork found in the settlement reveals that it was probably largely involved in trading with Anatolia, the Cyclades, and other settlements on the island (like Morphou, Kyra, Philia, and Deneia and other areas in the central lowlands). It has been concluded that traders here were involved in creating trading networks with other places on the island, especially those located in the Troodos Mountains where copper was extracted and could be worked nearby or sent directly to Vasilia for production or trading. This accumulation of goods and trading with other regions and settlements on the island indicates a shift to focusing on amassing material wealth and an increasing divide in social class (Webb and Frankel, 2013).
Pyrgos is located between the bays of Limassol and Larnaka, in a region that experienced one of the first settlements of the EBA in Cyprus. Vases that have shown up in tombs during this time period seemed to have a relation to those in Marki (Belgiorno, 1995). Also in Pyrgos, a Late Chalcolithic idol showed similarities with a figurine from Sotira-Arkolies and the "Ejaculator" idol, suggesting potential settlement connection between these locations (Belgiorno, 2000). These established ties most likely did not evaporate with the onset of the Early Bronze Age, especially considering the importance of Pyrgos in construction of metal goods, so cultural ties may exist.
Vounous, as a major cultural center of prehistoric Bronze Age Cyprus, was bound to have connections with surrounding settlements and influence part of the regional diversity that developed with the onset of the period, much like Byblos was a major influencing power in the Levant.
The most interesting aspect of the regionalism of Cyprus during the prehistoric Bronze Age is the divide that arose between the northern and southern regions of the island. These differences seem to indicate a difference in the intensity of influence of the Anatolian and Near Eastern traders and migrants and a difference in adaptability of the new ideas that came with them. These differences also exhibit a change in the societies of the two regions. The north, with its increasing complex funerary practices, changing pottery techniques, and religious complexity indicates an increasing social elite and hierarchy while the south seemed to maintain a uniformity with their pottery production and funerary practices, suggesting a stronger importance on social egalitarianism (Peltenburg, 1996; Webb and Frankel, 2013). These distinct differences are important in understanding the religion of ancient Cyprus. Religion often reflects the social, political, and economic organization of a community (agrarian societies often emphasize the importance of fertility in their ritualistic practices), and so populations with differences in these three core areas will experience variations in what may be an overarching religion. In the north, the religion may change to the idea of a higher divinity, reflecting a developing social hierarchy as they adapt to external influences and shift from simple fertility beliefs to one of a more all-encompassing aspect of divinity. The trading between these two regions will create similarities between them, shaping a uniform thread, but the characteristic nature of these two communities will create their own strain of a similar religion.
The excavations of Sotira and Vounous present evidence for diversity between the two poles of the island. The cultural uniformity in their pottery exists in the production of Red Polished Ware, but it is there that similarities, for the most part, end. A certain pattern of distinction occurs between the settlements of the north (Bellapais-Vounous, Karmi-Palealona, Lapithos, etc.) and the settlements of the south (Marki, Sotira, etc.). In the north, the forms and decorations of the ware were quite varied, while in the south most ceramics were produced with little to no decoration. The shapes of the vessels are relatively similar. However, southern vessels are wider and flatter at the base and have a large variety of handles and lugs. Small, flat bowls were common in southern assemblages, while in the north round-based and tulip bowls were common. This indicates differences in use, handling, production, and types of environments that these vessels were used in. The differences in religious beliefs and practices are a possible reason for these differences in form and design. At Vounous, a settlement exemplifying the extreme of religious practices of the EBA in Cyprus, a large variety of designs are found on the vessels and different uses for the ceramics depending on ritual versus secular purposes resulted in different forms (Webb and Frankel, 2013).