Alashiya was an important state during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. It was an important source of goods, especially copper, for states in the Ancient Near East and Egypt. It is referred to in a number of the surviving texts and is now usually thought to be the name of Cyprus, or an area of Cyprus.
The name of the state translated as "Alashiya" is found on texts written in Egyptian, Hittite, Akkadian, Mycenean (Linear B) and Ugaritic. A number of the Amarna letters are from the King or ministers of Alashiya. These mostly concern the amount of copper that has been sent from Alashiya and requests for silver or ivory in return. One letter refers to 500 talents of copper (probably about 12.5 tons) and makes excuses as to why so little copper has been sent. Pharaoh is also referred to by the King of Alashiya as his "brother", indicating that the king regarded himself as an equal, probably because of the power of his kingdom. Papyrus Anastasi IV, written several centuries later, also refers to copper (as well as cows) sent from Alashiya to Egypt.
Any place identified as Alashiya must therefore have had sizable copper production during the Late Bronze Age. There are a number of other clues in the texts. The Amarna letters contain references to a ship belonging to the King of Alashiya and the men of Lukki (probably part of the Sea Peoples, silimiar to pirates) seizing villages in Alashiya.
In other correspondence, the King of Ugarit pleads for help from the King of Alashiya to protect Ugarit from the Sea Peoples. Another document from Ugarit records the banishment of two princes to "the land of Alashiya". One further text found at Ugarit may contain a further clue to the location of the capital city of Alashiya, as it could imply that the city was located on a mountain. However, this word has more usually been translated as shore (see Goren 2003).
Some of the last texts referring to Alashiya are from the Hittite Empire (based in modern Syria or Turkey, but it is now generally (although not universally) agreed that Alashiya refers to at least part of Cyprus. Specifically, it was generally argued that the site of Enkomi was the capital of the kingdom of Alashiya, which covered the entire island of Cyprus (eg, Knapp 1997).
The identification of Cyprus with Alashiya was confirmed by the 2003 publication by Goren et al. of an article in the American Journal of Archaeology detailing the petrographic and chemical analysis of a number of the Amarna and Ugaritic letters sent from Alashiya. These examinations of the provenance of the clay used to create the tablets indicate that Syria could not be the location of Alashiya, while clay on Cyprus is a good match.
However, this analysis showed that the clays did not originate anywhere near the site of Enkomi and that suitable clays are close to the sites of Kalavasos and Alassa. These sites, especially Kalavasos, were also important Late Bronze Age sites and are located close to sources of copper.
Moreover, Armstrong (2003) argues that there is considerable evidence for regional variation and that there is no evidence for a centralized, island-wide political authority on Cyprus during the Late Bronze Age.
It is therefore currently unclear whether the kingdom of Alashiya comprised the whole of Cyprus, with the capital city moving location (probably starting with Enkomi), or was always sited at Kalavasos, or whether Alashiya comprised only one region of Cyprus.
- Armstrong, K. M. 2003 Settlement Hierarchy and The Location of Alashiya on Cyprus (http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/view.cgi?ucin1070632393)
- Knapp, A. B. 1997 The Archaeology of Late Bronze Age Cypriot Society.
- Goren, Y. 1993 et al. The Location of Alashiya (http://www.ajaonline.org/archive/107.2/yuval_goren_shlomo_b.html) Petrographic analysis of the tablets.
- Ancient Cyprus (http://www.ashmol.ox.ac.uk/ash/amulets/cypruscopper/AncCyp-Cu-07.html)
- Cyprus in the Late Bronze Age (http://home.nycap.rr.com/foxmob/lba_cyprus.htm)
- Letter from the king of Alasiya (http://nefertiti.iwebland.com/alasiya.htm)
- The Amarna Letters (http://www.courses.psu.edu/cams/cams400w_aek11/amarnal.html)