It was grandly reopened after many years in the New Berlin Museum. Well-crafted masks of the archaic and classical era made of terracotta, from altars and shrines dedicated to the Goddess Aphrodite, the ultimate deity who was worshiped mystically in Cyprus, but also to Apollo or Zeus . Limestone figurines, decorated with jewels or others holding deltas, plaques on which wishes were written. Cyprus did not have marble, so the statues are made of terracotta and limestone, unique in their kind.

A little further away, a huge Cypriot bronze talent in the shape of an ox hide, found in a shipwreck south of Turkey, stands out imposingly, as does Aphrodite of Idalius, haughty, holding a dove. Vessels and kraters well preserved over the centuries, such as the kylix with the ornate, miniature bull at the mouth. And of course the impressive four-sided bronze pedestal with wheels, the largest that has been found in excavations.

These are just some of the rare archaeological findings that one can discover in the Cypriot archeology wing at the New Museum in Berlin, one of the most important collections of Cypriot antiquities in the world, as the Deputy Minister of Culture explains to us step by step, in a spontaneous tour of the Republic of Cyprus Vasiliki Kassianidou. We met her on the sidelines of the iconic opening of the “Hall of Cyprus”, which reopened its doors for the first time since 2009 with a new lease of life.

Amalgam of cultures: Greece, Egypt, Near East

She herself, a Professor of Environmental Archeology and Archaeometry at the University of Cyprus specializing in Archaeometallurgy, guides us through the exhibition with the look and spontaneous enthusiasm of an archaeologist, not just a politician who ceremonially opens an exhibition. However, this sudden dive into another world, 2,500 years ago, in the middle of the Mediterranean, causes the same excitement for the ordinary visitor, the non-expert, even though we are on Museum Island, in the heart of Berlin.

As Vassiliki Kassianidou explains speaking to DW: “The Cypriot Collection in the New Berlin Museum was created at the end of the 19th century, like many other collections in other major museums of the world. It has great objects, sculptures, ceramics, metals and it is in a museum that receives the most visitors of all the museums in the German capital.” At the same time “this exhibition is also the subject of research by archaeologists from Humboldt University, from other Universities, from Cypriot archaeologists and soon we will have even more information about these objects in scientific articles”.

Ethereal elements of a primeval Mediterranean

Many of the archaeological findings come from excavations by the German archaeologist Max Onefals Richter, who, like Heinrich Schliemann, excavated in Cyprus in the 19th century, looking for traces of the primitive civilizations of the Mediterranean. Many of the finds in the collection after World War II were taken to Russia by the Soviet Army.

For Vassiliki Kassianidou, the special element of the collection is that it spans different eras and styles, reconstructing the basic elements of the “Cypriot style”, if it can be schematically characterized as such, which is essentially an alloy of Greek, Egyptian elements with influences from the Near East. All these are found in Cypriot archaeology, composing something new and special.

Matias Wemhof, Director of the Museum of Prehistory and Early History, an expert on the prehistory of the Mediterranean, who also spoke to DW, agrees with this. “This island, Cyprus, is extremely interesting. Influences from all over the Mediterranean basin are found there. One may say that the sea divides, but here the sea joins. Goods and cultural elements were exchanged with ships in ancient times. In Cyprus one sees influences from Egypt, the Levant, and even from Asia. This is what makes up the cultural wealth of the island.” And all this in a huge time span that starts from the Bronze Age and goes all the way to Byzantium.

It is precisely these origins of the Cypriot collection, which is characterized by “ethereal” elements and an unparalleled stylistically Mediterranean “lightness” that evokes light, earthy colors and the sea, that the Museum wanted to highlight with the new architectural approach of the “Hall of Cyprus”, which is located near the Egyptian Collection but also in the Wing with the Troy exhibits.

Iconic exhibits in a landmark year

For Vasiliki Kassianidou, however, it is not only the importance of the exhibition from a museum and archaeological point of view that must be emphasized. “The opening of the exhibition coincides with two anniversaries, one is the 20th anniversary of the accession of Cyprus to the EU, a historical event that changed the course of Cyprus, perhaps the most important in the 21st century. Also this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Turkish invasion, a tragic anniversary that we must not forget. We always strive for a fair solution for Cyprus, we have not lost hope that our country will be united again,” he says to DW.

For Matias Wemhof, as he tells us, this wing of the museum is of great importance for another reason: “Because it shows that every culture lives from contact and exchange with other cultures. This alone is a clear statement against all nationalism. We also see it in Cyprus with its history of thousands of years. From an archaeological point of view, one sees a constant movement, constant osmosis. It is precisely these relations between cultures that are creative. It is important to understand this for our European culture as well, that we have places where one sees this dialogue between different cultures and also the scientific dialogue between archaeologists. So this exhibition is very fitting, especially this year, with Cyprus celebrating twenty years in the EU”.

At the event for the “Hall of Cyprus”, among important historians and archaeologists who spoke about it, the German Deputy Minister of Culture and Media, Claudia Roth, was also present, excited about the exhibits as well as the honored country. He even wanted to underline the close relationship between the two countries in the field of culture, archeology but also in difficult issues such as looted antiquities, something that was also particularly touched upon by the Vice President. of Culture of the Republic of Cyprus,

The “need for further deepening” of the cooperation between the two countries also in the field of culture was also emphasized by the Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus in Berlin, Maria Papakyriakou. “The roots of Cyprus are deep,” he said. “Despite the wars and looting, Cyprus remains a beacon of stability between Europe and Asia,” he added, stressing the importance of this year’s historical anniversaries. The highlight of the evening was the music from the ICHOS choir under the artistic direction of Stelios Hatjiktoris and Elenis Era, with traditional sounds from Cyprus, with generosity and respect, a journey through the centuries-old history of the place “in East and West”. Until June 23, films by Cypriot filmmakers are also shown at the New Museum.