Five things that I learned in Cyprus this summer

June 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

I can’t count how many fascinating things I encountered in Cyprus this summer, but five things stand out in my mind.  I think I might develop these more fully over the next few weeks, but with our work here mostly done, my bags mostly packed, and my attention span pretty limited, I thought I might put together a quick list of thoughts.

So, here they are:

1. Modular research designs beget modular publication designs. We’ve had to rethink how we plan to publish the results of our work at the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project. From the very first year of the project, we set modest single season goals. As the project grew from a single season of work to almost 10 seasons of work, we expanded and adjusted these goals. We kept true to our basic research questions, increased our pool of evidence incrementally, and designed each season to make clear contributions to our questions. As a result, we will be able to publish a part of our project as a self-contained and substantial contribution (the survey), leave part of our project for publication in the future (the results of excavations at two specific areas: Koutsopetria and Vigla), and cut part of our publication goals entirely (the Bronze Age material at Kokkinokremos) without jeopardizing the integrity of our work.  While we came to our project as a group of fairly junior scholars (I was still a graduate student!) and this justified our tentative approach, I can’t imagine designing a field project in any other way. The age of grandiose, multi-season field projects may be over.

2. Churches are not floor plans.  I spent the last four weeks studying the architectural remains, plans, and excavation reports from the 6th-13th (?) c. basilica at the site of E.F2 at Polis. The church underwent an amazing series of modifications through its lifetime. The beautiful state plan prepared by the site architectures communicated only a tiny bit of the information that walk around the site can give. Looking at the relationship between walls, the extent of mortar, and the differences in various wall construction styles reminded me that buildings like this were dynamic living entities.  The convention of depicting them as floor plans reduced the architecture to a static entity without history. Looking at the walls and floors careful returned the building to life.

I also was fortunate enough to travel around the area and look at various standing churches which proudly displayed their own histories. These buildings – like our basilica at E.F2 – not only showed signs of their life as sacred Christian structures, but also revealed that another aspect of sanctity through the attention of formal archaeological and architecture study and restoration.

church1

church2

3. Arches. When you do not have sources of marble on the island, arches often do just fine. I think that our church at E.F2 must have been framed with arches across its narthex and a dramatic south portico..

4. Video is easy. Scott Moore and I have discovered that we can produce pretty decent video using inexpensive equipment and publish it over the YouTubes. How did it take us so long to understand this? Why don’t more archaeological projects use the YouTubes to publicize our sites? Why are we talking about blogging (here and here) when video is so much more interesting?! Check out our antics here, here, and here.

5.  The World Still Exists. The longer I’m in academia, the more I have to face up to the reality that the world back home – in Grand Forks, North Dakoty, at the University of North Dakota, in the realm of students, committees, and colleagues – still exists when I go to Cyprus to do research. M.A. theses are submitted, committees meet, obligations (almost responsibilities) proliferate, students enroll, and all the other stuff happens when I am pondering archaeology, architecture, and arches. Who knew? And how do people manage this?

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