July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’ve been thinking a bit about fortified camps and refuges lately. This is largely prompted by my TOP SEKRET project, but also prompted a bit by my reflections on our ongoing study of the site of Pyla-Vigla on Cyprus. The question I keep having is how does one distinguish a fortified camp from a refuge.
Camps, at least for the Classical to Roman period served to accommodate soldiers for a short period of time. In fact, the Romans built fortified camps at the end of every days march. These camps differ, of course, from the more long-term camps – occupied for a number of years or even longer – known from the Roman period at strategically significant places in the Mediterranean, along borders, or in areas where longterm garrisons were stationed.
During the tumultuous Hellenistic period, numerous sites identified with short-term, strategic occupation appear across Greece, and a small number have been identified in Cyprus as well. Archaeologists have argued (pdf) that these likely served the needs of armies on the march or engaged in short-term fortification of the tactical locations or enemy territory. The argument for such episodic or short-term activities rests on two main features of these camps.
First, the material from such sites typically represents the short-term character of activities in these areas. Assemblages tend to be remarkably cohesive, largely utilitarian in character and chronologically unified.
Second, the fortification walls at these sites tend be rough, inelegant affairs. They rarely have proper ashlar polygonal or isodomic styles and often utilize natural features like rock outcrops or steep slopes to supplement the course of the wall. The remains of the wall, even if they seem imposing to us today, may have simply been the stone socles for mudbrick superstructures.
If the camps had any easily defined buildings within their circuits, they tended to be simple in design and rather small. In Greece they clearly featured tile roofs; in Cyprus, the roofs might have been reed and mud. In short, these rough-and-ready fortifications lacked the monumentality of the famous Attic border forts or the Hellenistic fortification that dot the Ionian coast of Turkey.
Refuges are a less clearly identified type of fortification in the landscape. In fact, some scholars have interpreted fortified camps as refuges. The material evidence for a refuge would likely be similar to that produced by a short-term military encampment. Moreover, a refuge, set away from the main areas of settlement and more likely to be hidden than monumental would manifest similarly in the landscape.
The best way, I suspect, to begin to make arguments for the function of remote fortified sites is to locate these places within larger settlement patterns and roads and routes through the landscape. Intensive survey has played a part creating dynamic landscape of settlement and movement in Greece and Cyprus. It seems possible that this work will present a way to understand rather modest, short-term, rural fortifications as well.
June 26, 2013 § 1 Comment
I know this isn’t one of my best titles ever, but it describes what I am trying to do pretty accurately. As we move toward a comprehensive preliminary study of the basilica in area EF2 at the site of Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus, we want to be able to say something about some of the ceramic assemblages associated with the buildings. In particular, we have a massive fill level that we have tentatively associated with the second phase in the construction of the basilica.
The fill is dated by both coins and ceramics to the middle decades of the 7th century an consisted over 3000 pieces of broken pottery. Because the excavators did not save all pottery and tended to discard less apparently diagnostic artifacts, the fill consisted over over 40% fine ware (compared to 9% transport amphora sherds, 32% utility wares (primarily storage vessels and other less diagnostic coarse and medium coarse fabric sherds), and 15% kitchen wares). While it may be possible to reconstruct what they discarded into the pottery dump, for now we think that the assemblage is more or less representative of what was excavated.
The majority of fineware in this assemblage is Cypriot Red Slip (or, what we maybe should call Late Roman D Ware). The chronology of the assemblage represents almost the full chronological range of CRS production which began some time in the 4th century and perhaps continued as late as the 8th. Like many significant assemblages of CRS, CRS9 and its variants (largely identified by Henryk Meyza and his work at nearby Paphos) make up the largest percentage of our material. The particularly production long life of CRS9 (beginning in 400 and continuing with some variation to almost the end of the 7th century) might account for its preponderance in our assemblage.
Unlike many other sites on the island the Polis R09 Fill had an impressive quantity of CRS8 an CRS11 sherds.
These likely date to the final century (or 150 years) of CRS production. The size of CRS11 vessels and the distinct folded-over shape of the rim of many of the CRS11 basins found at our site may suggest a local production center, although the rim of the vessel shown above is similar and comes from Anemurium in Asia Minor.
Our percentages are similar to those produced by the nearby Canadian Palaiopaphos Survey Project, but they identified fewer CRS11 sherds.
A nearly contemporary assemblage associated with two basilica churches excavated by Marcus Rautman at Kopetra on Cyprus also produced a similar distribution of forms.
The main difference between the CSPS and Kopetra assemblages are that they probably represent a wide range of depositional processes from discard to (perhaps) use. Our assemblage from trench R09 at Polis is probably all secondary discard and two steps removed from its primary use context. It was deposited as a single event, but the material likely derived from a range of domestic discards.
UPDATE: One more example, here are the different forms documented by the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project.
June 25, 2013 § Leave a comment
At the end of a study season, I’m always left with various things that I’m all excited about, but I don’t have sorted out for a blog post.
For example, I usually have a satisfying photograph of the end from the last day at the apotheke (or storeroom) like this:
The table is empty, and that’s a good thing, because it was usually filled with pottery under study or being catalogued.
I also have a few photographs that try to capture the range of activities during the season in a single shot. So, I have a photograph that shows off Brandon Olson’s illustrations of Late Roman fine ware like this. Scott and Brandon are looking at two chronologically contemporary, but physically distinct areas of the excavation for joins.
And I since we did some 3D modeling of parts of the basilica using Agisoft Photoscan, I invariably have some cool screen shots like those below. The first one is southwest corner of the narthex. If you look carefully you can see the lines of the original arched opening which was latter walled up with less well-sorted (and weight bearing) rubble walls.
Here is another showing the buttresses in the north aisle of the church. You can see clearly how the eastern apses do not bond with the main wall of the north aisle.
One of the most useful things about modeling architecture using Agisoft is that we can show parts of the basilica at almost impossible angles without having to get a crane and reshooting photographs.
I also have a little gaggle of photographs that I like, but don’t really know what to do with. So I have this one of the “super moon” over the plataea of Polis at night. I like it because it looks a bit like a painting.
Then I always have ridiculously beautiful scenes like this:
Or like this:
I don’t recall whether these two photos appeared on the blog.
It’s ok if you find this kind of thing empty and self-indulgent. I promise that I’ll get back to more substantive blog posts over the next couple of days. I have some writing and thinking time in Larnaka before I head to Greece to check out an area where I hope to do some fieldwork next year.
June 24, 2013 § Leave a comment
Yesterday was one of my best days ever as an archaeologist. I didn’t discover some amazing new site. And I didn’t find some amazing or valuable object. And my day didn’t involve out witting Nazis or mummies (or zombies).
Over the last few weeks, we have worked to establish dates and architectural relationships for the various parts of the basilica at EF2 at Polis. We figured out that the narthex and the south portico of the church were added to the building most likely date to the middle years of the 7th century. We found particular types of late Cypriot Red Slip pottery in a foundation trench associated with the narthex, and we know that the south portico – a long porch build along the south side of the church – had to date to after (or the same time as) the narthex. The south portico appears to have been cut into a massive rubble fill the extended north from the south wall of the church. (We’ve tentatively argued that this rubble fill was a response to a local drainage issue.)
The other phase of the church that we’ve been studying involves the building of buttresses along the walls along the walls of the main nave. The ceramics from deposits associated with these piers also date to the 7th century, but we had not been able to associate their construction with the building of the narthex and south portico. Until yesterday.
Yesterday, Scott Moore discovered a join between two pieces of a stamped Cypriot Red Slip plate. One piece came from the massive rubble course south of the basilica that narrowly pre-dates the building of the portico. The other piece of the same plate came from a foundation deposit associated with the construction of a buttress on the north wall of the nave. This sherd, then, connects the two major changes to the basilica: the addition of a narthex and portico and the reconstruction of the main nave.
The two pieces of pottery came from trenches about 15 m apart. The trench to the south of the south portico was excavated in 1985 and the trench in the nave in 1990. One sherd was inventoried as a find (which means that it stood out as something with intrinsic value) and one sherd languished in the boxes of context pottery. (We had to look through over 20,000 artifacts in the context pottery boxes to find this little guy!).
Bringing together the context pottery and the inventoried finds, two different episodes of excavation, and the narthex, portico, and buttresses of the main nave has unlocked the chronology of the church. It was a pretty good day.
June 20, 2013 § Leave a comment
One of the challenges that we faced working at the EF2 basilica at Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus was that so much of the ceramic evidence came from various kinds of fill levels at the site. In other words, we had very little material from traditional use contexts and an unbelievable quantity of pottery associated with either construction deposits or the massive rubble fill level that extends south from the basilica. While analysis of ceramics from areas of such relatively undifferentiated contexts has not always been the rule on archaeological project, recently decades have shown how the study of material in these fills levels can produce high-resolution snap shots of the certain components of a communities material culture.
Note the “Rubble Layer” in the scarp drawing
As we looked at the pottery from these levels we began to think about how to approach assemblages of ceramic artifacts produced by activities completely unrelated to the original to the original purposes of the objects. The artifacts present in the leveling and construction fills, for example, represent past activities at the site, habits of discard, and construction practices. They also provide chronological “type fossils” that allow us to date architectural features associated with the levels.
Gavin Lucas in his new book, Understanding the Archaeological Record, puts it nicely:
“If we think about the archaeological record in terms of the residuals of assemblages, we must consider such residues as possessing the memory of the assemblage itself, insofar as the organization of the residue captures, however faintly, the organization of the parent. It is the residue of this organization that is being sought, not simply the elements or objects which were part of it.” (p. 211).
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve worked out way through the material in the fills that extend south from the basilica and have paid particular attention to the very common Cypriot fine ware (or table ware) called Cypriot Red Slip as well as contemporary imported pottery (see my post yesterday for more on this). Our intent is to analyze the residual ceramics in these fills much like we’d interpret survey data. In fact, we intend to compare the assemblage produced by this fill with assemblages from both similar contexts (especially those associated with the nearly contemporary basilicas at the site of Kalavassos-Kopetra) as well as the results of survey work in the larger Paphos and Polis area.
Our goal is to be able to speak to and from the architecture as well as the assemblage in our analysis of activity in the area of EF2 at Polis.
June 19, 2013 § 1 Comment
About two weeks ago, I was feeling pretty good about the date our our basilica at the site of Polis. We dated the church on the basis of five or six fairly secure deposits associated with the construction or modification of the church. The pottery in these contexts is largely the locally(ish) produced fine ware, Cypriot Red Slip.
The more pottery we have, however, the more problems it creates. And here’s how it goes.
First, we have to identify the major wares present and the make an effort to distinguish the different shapes. That often means spending hours looking at sheets of rim profiles and reading fiddly descriptions of fabric. Because these pots were not made on a production line, any sherd we find does not really line up precisely with the object in our books so we have to wiggle it to fit a category (and, moreover, the potters were not sitting around discussing how to produce Cypriot Red Slip Form 9!). It’s like getting some kind of polyhedron to pass through a round or square hole in a child’s game.
Then, once we are satisfied that we have fit our sherd into the typology, we can begin attempting to date our shapes on the basis of stratified examples of these vessels elsewhere. Most scholars who contribute to the typologies we use to identify the sherds also make an effort to date the pottery. Unfortunately, the bewildering array of shapes and sub-types can devolve into equally bewildering chronological arguments. I had a bit of a “down-melt” this morning when confronted with several possible for a type ranging from 580/600-700 to early 5th to 7th century. That’s a big difference and 580/600 is not a secure date but TWO different dates separated by a slash. In terms of normal humans living in normal time, this is meaningless. I was not born in 1972/1988.
Finally, once we get some dates on some pots, we have to reconcile the chronologies of various vessels within the deposit with one another. This always involves dating the deposit to after the date of the more recent object. Once we have the terminus post quem (that the date after which) for the deposit, we can begin to attempt to understand how earlier material made its way into the collection of pot sherds deposited as a single event. Since most of our deposits are associated with the construction of the basilica, it is easy enough to understand the various earlier sherds as being part of the debris used to backfill a foundation trench or pack a floor. In fact, from a use standpoint the latest and earliest sherd in the deposit functioned essentially the same way. They were all residual and probably all cast aside some time earlier in either a dump or in some kind of local destruction.
The problem is, of course, the more pottery there is, the more complicated the chronological relationships are. For each deposit, we have to sort out both the very local chronology of material, but also the relationship between it and others at our site which may not have the same types (or sub-types) or pottery, but may have a similar date. As a great man once said, mo’ pottery, mo’ problems.
June 18, 2013 § 1 Comment
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working my way through Richard Maguire’s recent dissertation on the Late Antique Basilicas of Cyprus. While he dedicates the main body of his dissertation to a series of nuanced case studies, the real jewel of his dissertation is the gazetteer of Cypriot churches. As long time readers of this blog know, I’ve been piddling about with a catalogue of churches on the island (it was really just a list) for years.. Maguire’s dissertation has put an end to that project (thankfully)!
One of the most immediately useful observations in Maguire’s gazetteer is that the church on the Acropolis of Amathus has a 13 x 13 square as its core. The basilica is #6 in his gazetteer and coins have dated the building to the final quarter of the 6th century.
Its 13 x 13 m core consists of the nave and aisles and is roughly similar to the core of our church in the area of EF2 at Polis. Of course, the 13 x 13 square does not align perfectly with our church, but then again, our church is a good bit rougher than the elaborate Amathus church.
What makes this parallel more compelling is that, like the Amathus Acropolis basilica, our church has south porch with four piers. It joins with a narthex that extends beyond the southern aisle. More importantly, our church appears to date – on the basis of ceramic evidence, to no earlier than the final decades of the 6th century. So our church and the church at the Acropolis at Amathus are more or less contemporary.
June 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
On Friday, our traditional day off here in Polis, I went for a walk in the country with my friend and fellow archaeologist Tina Najbjerg. We walked up to the ridge that separates the fertile Chrysochous Valley from the more arid and remote Akamas Peninsula in Greece. Our walk even included the picturesque ruin of a small, maybe Middle Byzantine monastery know as the Pyrgos tis Regainas.
“On this side of the Akamas we enter a land of classical and mediaeval romance ; for here, according to Cypriote tradition, was the Fontana Amorosa of Ariosto, and a distinct and far more beautiful “Vrisis ton Eroton”, where the natives say that Aphrodite wedded Acamas. There can be little doubt that the two have probably but one origin, and that the real ‘fount of love ‘ is the present “Vrisis ton Eroton”", although the western tradition has identified itself with a separate spring. The latter rises at the foot of the cliff in a tiny bay half-an-hour’s ride north of Agios Nicola, and is a prosaic little fount enough; but the former, three and a half miles to the south, near the Potami tchiflik, has no rival in Cyprus. Approaching from the sea the traveller follows a rushing stream up a densely wooded ravine, barred at last by sombre cliffs, whose top can scarcely be discerned through the arch of boughs; spreading and shimmering over the slanting face of the rock falls a mountain stream, until near the base the cliff slopes inwards and the water falls from a forest of maiden-hair fern in a thousand silver threads to the pool below : across the threads here and there shoot stray shafts of sunlight, penetrating the dense shade of a gigantic fig-tree, and three separate springs rise on either side under the cliff and gurgle down to join the pool. The traveller, whose eyes have seen only the rock and scrub of waterless Cyprus, seems in an enchanted spot, not seeing from whence the water comes, and he ceases to wonder that native fancy has peopled the spot with legendary loves, and sailors carried westward vague reports of its beauties to the ears of Ariosto.
Between the rival fountains and a little back from the coast lies a mediaeval relic now known as Pyrgos, the ‘ Tower ‘ ; an arched gateway gives entrance to a small cloister of which only the northern side is standing, the wall showing traces of fresco. Round about are foundations of out-buildings, and disused paths lead through the brushwood : east of it is a little spring and some fine pine-trees. There can be no doubt that it was once a small monastery, or a metoichi of a larger one.”
It seemed pretty nice to me too. In fact, it was nice enough that I just enjoyed the shade of the oaks and the little ruined monastery and left my camera in my bag for a while.
They day was warm and just a bit hazy. Our main goal of the walk was to take in the amazing views.
View north over the Chrysochou Bay
Standing atop that ridge and look around, I got the uncanny feeling that I could be anywhere in the Eastern Mediterranean and have these views (well, not anywhere literally, but that the Mediterranean countryside looked like this). I’m not a naturalist, but even I could identify the wild olives, carob, scrubby oaks, and pine common to the Mediterranean littoral. They left scratches on my legs from the bare branches that goats have The rocky ground, the thin soils, the sea borne breeze, even the smells of goats, oregano, and salt air made our walk familiar.
A view south to the Akamas
June 13, 2013 § Leave a comment
Scott Moore and I have spent a good bit of time processing context pottery from the site of Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus.
This is how it looks:
Then typed and keyed into a database.
June 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
This weekend is the annual CAARI (Cyprus-American Archaeological Research Institute) Workshop. This meeting attracts archaeologists from all over the Republic of Cyprus to present their work often as their field or study seasons are underway. At its best, it is a great way to catch up with both old friends and professional news.
Typically, my project, the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project presents some of their research, but, alas, this year, we were not invited to participate. Rumor has it that we were not invited because we made all the other projects look bad, and this was bad for morale in the archaeological community. Apparently our reports on what we had accomplished on the island in such a short time brought some very important senior archaeologists to tears at the relative insignificance of their own achievements.
Despite the situation being as it is, Scott Moore and I have opted to soldier on. Instead of leaving the archaeological community in awe of our achievements through a direct presentation of our genius, we have decided to contribute a brief report on our work at Polis in their larger work.
We hope that it will be seen as sufficiently modest to get invited back to the CAARI workshop again in the future:
A Brief Report on the PKAP-Polis Team’s 2012 and 2013 Work
Over the course of the 2012 and 2013 season, we have continued to study the stratigraphy, architecture, and finds from the Christian basilica style church in E.F2. To facilitate this work, we have prepared a comprehensive GIS-based site plan of the church, transcribed close to 40 excavation notebooks from the area, and created an relational database integrating digitized notebooks, analyzed context pottery, and registered finds. These tools and the study of over 20,000 artifacts from a fills, collapse, discard areas, and use levels has allowed us to begin the process of dating the major phases of this basilica and locating it in the history of the busy area of EF2.
The most immediate significance of this work is that we can now date the basilica’s construction to the 6th century AD with substantial modification over the next century including the addition of a narthex and south portico and its transformation from a wood-roofed to barrel-vaulted church. The ceramic assemblages associated with the various construction phases contained a wide range of well-attested pottery in the southwestern Cyprus including local fine wares (Cypriot Red Slip) and imports (African Red Slips and Phocaean Wares), Late Roman Amphoras, and various Late Roman kitchen and cooking wares. It is worth noting that this assemblage is rather distinct from assemblages along the south and eastern sides of the island which feature far more imported fine wares and more numerous LR1 amphoras than we have currently recognized at Polis.
While our primary focus has been on the Late Antique and Early Byzantine levels at E.F2, we plan to expand our work to include the systematic study of the Hellenistic, Roman and later Medieval remains in this area. Our intial study of material related to these earlier periods in the area has revealed the existence of a well-defined 1st c. BC/1st c. AD horizon characterized by Cypriot Sigillata and imported Eastern Sigilatta A table wares and a range of cooking vessels in recognizable Roman fabrics. Amphora and utility wares are far less common with the exception of the ocassional example of John Leonard’s infamous “pinch-handled” amphoras.
In 2013, we also conducted a campaign of high resolution laser scanning of the area of EF2 collection over 50 million individual data points with a Leica ScanStation C10. The result of this work not only complemented the more fanciful 3D reconstructions accompanying the City of Gold exhibit, but also provided detailed visual support for the study of notebooks and ceramics. The laser scans will allow the research team to document architectural relationships during the offseason, to produce vertical elevations, and to supplement and revise the existing plans of the site and its buildings.