The Cyprus Collections

The Cyprus Collections at Medelhavsmuseet (The museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities) are some of the world's leading archaeological finds from Cyprus. The collections consist mainly of finds excavated by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition during 1927 – 1931 but also of vases and other objects, which the Swedish Consul in Larnaca, Luke Z. Pierides, bestowed on Crown Prince Gustav Adolf in 1925. In addition, the collections consist of finds made during Einar Gjerstad's excavations in Cyprus from 1923 to 1924.

The Cyprus Expedition was directed by Einar Gjerstad who together with three other expedition members – John Lindros, Erik Sjöqvist and Alfred Westholm – lay the foundation for modern archaeology in Cyprus. The expedition carried out excavations in around twenty different locations across the island, together covering most of the ancient periods of Cyprus, from the Stone Age to the Roman Empire. The majority of the findings made consisted of pottery and a large number of vases, especially from the Bronze Age, were found in chamber tombs. Many sculptures, primarily in limestone and terracotta, were excavated from shrines of the Archaic to Hellenistic periods such as in Kition, Mersinaki and the sacred cult site of Ayia Irini. Various settlements were also excavated, e.g. the Bronze Age fortress of Nitovikla, the Royal Palace at Vouni and the Roman theatre of Soli to mention a few of the more spectacular locations explored by the expedition.

These extensive scientific excavations and subsequent and – for its time exemplary –publications made the work of the Swedish Expedition in Cyprus hugely important. The standard of the expedition publications were so high that scholars that conduct research on ancient Cyprus still today refer to the collected works of The Swedish Cyprus Expedition: Finds and results of the excavations in Cyprus 1927-1931 or the SCE as they are also known. Publishing the excavation results was often a drawn out process on the subject of which Einar Gjerstad wrote the following: "Carrying out excavations is one thing. Analysing the results of such excavations is another matter altogether and us archaeologists are often more willing to do the former rather than the latter." However, in the case of the Swedish Cyprus Expedition, the publications were issued in rapid succession: Six volumes of over 2,000 pages and 600 plates from 1934 to 1937. This was followed by additional studies and interpretations of the finds made with the entire SCE being completed in 1972.

More than half of the finds were brought to Sweden with the exception of gold and silver objects, the majority of which remained in Cyprus. This division meant that around 12,000 objects came to Sweden including 5,000 boxes of pottery shards. The finds filled 771 packing crates, the precious cargo of which was loaded onto the Swedish Orient Line's cargo ship M/S Gotland in the Port of Famagusta and taken to Sweden in 1931.

After initially having been stored at the Oxenstierna Manor house, the Cyprus Collections were moved to the basement of the Historical Museum in the 1940's. There, the collection remained for almost 40 years. However, a Government Commission had since the 1930´s endeavoured to find a suitable museum for the Cyprus Collections and other collections of antiquities kept in Stockholm. The work of the Commission was completed in 1951 by the former Director of the Swedish National Heritage Board, Sigurd Curman, who suggested that the collections should be merged with the Egyptian Museum, since 1929 located in the former Bank of Sweden building (Riksbankshuset) in the Gamla Stan district of Stockholm. An initial attempt to merge the Cyprus Collections and the Egyptian Museum leads to an administrative union in 1954 under the name of Medelhavsmuseet – The Museum of Mediterranean and Near Easten Antiquities. However, the collections remained at their respective locations in Stockholm until the present Medelhavsmuseet opened its doors in 1982 at Fredsgatan 2 in Stockholm.