Iron Age Cyprus, Kition, and Territorialization at Pyla-Viga

January 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

I was pretty excited to discover that the most recent volume of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research was largely devoted to recent research on Iron Age Cyprus and edited by Derek Counts and Maria Iacovou. The introduction situates the contributions as fresh look at at Iron Age Cyprus in the spirit of the important 1997 volume of BASOR dedicated to the same issues, while at the same avoiding being a sequel or follow up to it. This reflects the remarkable dynamism of recent scholarship on Iron Age Cyprus that has continued to push beyond questions posed in 1997 as well as the growing quantity of data available for the study of this period.

For people who don’t regularly follow scholarship on Cyprus, the Iron Age is important, among other reasons, because it witnessed the formation of states centered on urban areas that shaped the political, cultural, and economic identity of the island for centuries even after these “city kingdoms” ceased to be autonomous entities. The important cities of Paphos, Salamis, Kition, and Amathus all appear to have consolidated as independent political units over the course of the Iron Age. Moreover, the relationship between the Iron Age polities and the kingdoms (we presume) of the Bronze Age remains obscure and the debates over continuity and discontinuity at various sites and among the polities on the island represents a contentious and significant issue in the understanding of Cyprioit antiquity. At the core of much of the debate is the ethnic character of the leading Iron Age cities on Cyprus and the “arrival of the Greeks” either at the end of Bronze Age or in the very early Iron Age. Considering the modern political issues at play on the island, issues of ethnic identity in antiquity have real modern implications.

Much of this larger narrative is in the background of the contributions to this volume. I wish it had appeared about 6 months earlier so I could have incorporated it into the discussion of the Iron Age at Pyla-Koutsopetria that appeared in the conclusion to our recently submitted monograph. Of particular significance is S. Fourrier’s work on the rural sanctuaries associated with Kition. She argues that the territorialization of Kition did not occur until the Classical period rather than during the earlier Iron Age and associated it with Kition’s conquest of Idalion in the 5th century. In other words, the territorial limits of the kingdom of Kition remains in flux and its control over the countryside and its resources was not fully established.

This challenges what I attempted to argue in the conclusions to the Pyla-Koutsopetria volume where I observe that the Iron Age site situated atop the prominent coastal ridge of Vigla might reflect the first phase in the expansion of Kition into its eastern hinterland.

Figure5 19View of the Iron Age site at Pyla-Vigla from the coastal plain.

I blogged about it here. I suggest that the scatter of Iron Age material across a number of units coincided with the well-know statue of Bes with a dedication to Reshef now in the Louvre with its Phoenician inscription. D. Counts has argued that this statue is a hybridized image that evokes certain aspect of Phoenician deities as well iconography common on Cyprus.  From this same area, we also identified an assemblage of figurines probably dating, at earliest, to the Classical period along with a few sherds that are likely Cypro-Geometric in date.

Figure5 18Cypro-Geometric Material

She noted that many of the extraterritorial sanctuaries in the territory of Kition share characteristics of cults associated with Idalion. One of the key figures in the cult life of Idalion is Reshef and it is rather remarkable that Fourrier did not mention the statue of this deity from the area of Pyla. If we follow her argument, the presence of this statue from the coastal zone of Pyla might suggest that Idalion exerted some influence over this maritime zone. Complicating this is the possibility that some extra-urban areas like  Pyla-Vigla formed part of a larger “homogeneous cultural region” where the iconography of the “Master of the Lion” (typically associated with Heracles-Milqart) intermixed with Phoenician influences derived from communities at Kition, Idalion, and elsewhere in the region.

Figure5 29Iron Age Material 

The significance of this for our analysis of the Pyla-Vigla Iron Age component goes even further. Fourrier observed that extra-urban sanctuaries may have originated to serve the needs of local communities before becoming parts of territorialization strategies of the emerging Iron Age polities. The close relationship between some of these sites and earlier Late Bronze Age sites reflected both practical advantages of the location of Bronze Age sites and the availability of building material, as well as the efforts to connect with a shadowy, if physically present past. The site at Pyla-Koutsopetria certainly fits this pattern in that it stands in close proximity and visual range of  the Late Bronze Age site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos.

If we accept Fourrier’s argument for the late development of Kition’s territorialization, then we might be wise to narrate the history of Iron Age activity at the site of Pyla-Vigla in a different way. It seems probable that the site originated as a settlement in the shadow of the long abandoned Late Bronze Age site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos in the Cypro-Geometric Period. By the Cypro-Archaic period, the site appeared as part of the larger Mesoria community with its complex and hybridized cultural identity and perhaps had a relationship with the nearby inland site of Idalion. With the territorialization of Kition in the 5th century, the site develops even further and shows signs of ongoing cult activity as well as expansion. This activity persists throughout the Hellenistic period and into the Roman era before declining in Late Antiquity.

The Hedgehog and the Squirrel

January 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

There is an old Norwegian folk saying that circulates in these parts. This wisdom divides the world into hedgehogs and squirrels.

The hedgehog lives in the comfortable world of a relatively temperate hedge protected from the elements, with a  steady diet of grubs, and the secure knowledge that it can simply roll up into a ball to escape its enemies.

The squirrel, on the other hand, lives out on the limbs of trees and has to survive both the summer heat and the winter cold without benefit of the comfortable hedge. To survive winter, the squirrel has to “diversify its bonds” by hiding nuts in various places. If it can’t find its nuts or they’re buried under deep snow, the squirrel will scavenge for any kind of food. At other times, the squirrel has been known to seek out its neighbors and packs of three or four squirrels have been known to take down rabbits, cats, and even small dogs. The point of this folk saying is that the hedgehog live a life of comfort because of the security of their hedge, but the squirrel has to constantly adapt to new challenges. Or something like that.

I am obviously a squirrel and I feel like I live on the precarious and exposed limbs of trees. As a result, I have done all I can to diversify my production this semester. I have no idea whether any of these papers will come to anything and matter, but since I don’t have a comfortable hedge, this is what they look like:

1. 3D Models and Disciplinary Practice in Mediterranean Archaeology. This is a 20 minute paper for Eric Poehler’s Digital Archaeological Practice: A Workshop on the use of Technology in the Field next month at the University of Massachusetts. The paper will consider how the practice of collecting 3D data with photography (trench side structure-from-motion imaging) could impact disciplinary practices. It will continue to develop some ideas that I first articulated in a longish paper that I delivered here at UND in 2010 and then refined a bit for a paper that I gave at last year’s AIA (on YouTubes here), plus some new ideas gleaned from the 3D Thursday project.

2. Teaching History in a Scale-Up Classroom. I learned this fall that the paper Cody Stanley and I submitted to the History Teacher on our experiences teaching in the Scale-Up classroom received a “revise and resubmit”. This was good news since it was the first effort on our part to write something like this. The bad news is, of course, that now we have to revise it and there is an April deadline.  

3. Settlement on Cyprus in the 7th and 8th Centuries. I was invited to contribute an article to an edited volume on the Early Byzantine transition across the Mediterranean that evolved from a conference held in 2011 at the University of Cyprus. The island of Cyprus is interesting in that it did not follow some of the patterns seen elsewhere in the Mediterranean. For example, there is relatively little evidence for urban contraction or the construction of fortified places across the island (with a few, well-known exceptions) and recent work at Polis, for example, has suggested that the disruptions associated with the mid-7th century may have been relatively brief and followed by a period of rebuilding. This paper needs a good bit of thought and work and will benefit from the help of my collaborators both at PKAP and Polis on Cyprus.

4. Man Camps at the SAAs. At the end of April, I’m giving a paper on my work with the North Dakota Man Camp Project at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Austin. The paper is titled “The North Dakota Man Camp Project: The Archaeology of Workforce Housing in the Bakken Oil Patch of North Dakota” and it should draw heavily from our almost-ready-for-primetime article which should appear as an advanced working draft on this blog soon! More than that, I hope to get to do a little research on workforce housing in the most recent Texas oil boom.

The good thing about being a squirrel is that I never get bored snerking around the same old hedge eating grubs, but, on the other hand, maintaining diversity is exhausting! Wish me luck! 


The Narthex at the South Basilica at Polis on Cyprus

December 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

After a two week hiatus to work on the preliminary report from our work in the man camps, I’ve been able to return to my preliminary report on our work at the South Basilica at Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus. I’ve managed to pull together much of the work that we’ve done over the past few study seasons into a single document and have begun to shuffle the various parts into some kind of rational order. In the process of doing this, I always discover little issues that require additional research or documentation. This week I had to think more carefully about the narthex and apse of the South Basilica. So today, I’ll amuse you with a brief discussion considering the arrangement of the narthex. Next week, I’ll muse on the apse.

Figure 1 wrc3

We have assigned the narthex to the second phase of the building on the basis of its relationship to the south portico. Material from beneath the south portico is contemporary with material associated with what we believe to be a foundation cut along the west wall of the narthex. This material is all 7th century and seems to date to about a half-century or so later than the first phase of the building. The challenge, then, is that we have to imagine the first phase of the basilica at Polis without a narthex. 

Churches without narthexes are rare on Cyprus. There are, however, two from the nearby site of Peyia. The Baptistery Basilica at Peyia lacks a narthex, but the irregular west wall of the church hints that the epikopeion complex to the west made it impossible to construct a narthex in the narrow space. A similar concession to space probably accounts for the rather irregular shape of the narthex at the Chrysopolitissa basilica in Paphos. For the Baptistery Church at Peyia, the location of the baptistery to the south of this building hints that this building may not have been a typical church and was arranged to serve the needs of the baptismal rite rather than the standard liturgy.


MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf

(From R. Maguire, Late Antique Basilicas on Cyprus. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of East Anglia 2012).

To the east of this church stood the Central Basilica at Peyia. This church has generally been dated to the 6th century and perhaps the reign of Justinian owing to its centrally placed ambo and use of Proconnesian marble. In place of a traditional narthex, this church had a small, but elaborate atrium. The location of the earlier Baptistery Basilica to the west may have made it difficult to build both an atrium and a narthex for this church. The decision, then, was to include an open atrium rather than traditional enclosed narthex spanning the western side of the building.

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf

(From Maguire 2012)

DSC 0213View of the Baptistery and Central Basilica from the West

The decision to forego a traditional narthex in the relatively elaborate Central Basilica may suggest that the narthex was not an absolute requirement for liturgical practices on Cyprus.

Other examples of churches on Cyprus without narthexes are relatively rare. On the Karpas the two churches at Aphendrika (the Asomatos and Panayia) may have lacked narthexes in their earliest phase as perhaps did the church at Bedestan in Nicosia, but short of systematic excavation this will remain an open question. The earliest phase of the basilica at Maroni-Petrera appears to have lacked a narthex, but the early (5th c?) date of this building and its generally irregular shape makes it difficult to associate with other churches on the island in general. 

The absence of a narthex in the first phase of the South Basilica appears to be a genuine anomaly on Cyprus. The presence of a major road some 10 m to the west of the basilica’s west wall might have left an informal open space near its western entrances making the formal, covered space of a narthex unnecessary. It is interesting that the addition of the narthex coincided with the addition of the south portico which opened onto what may have been a walled courtyard to the south of the building. A tiny fragment of wall that leans against the eastern most wall of the south portico dates the east wall of the courtyard to after the construction of the south portico. 

So, perhaps the first phase of the church simply relied upon open space or a roughly enclosed courtyard to the west of the church that some time later was replaced with a formal narthex. The courtyard, as a result, was shifted to the south of the church and complemented with the south portico. It is tempting to see the atrium or open courtyard as serving an important function. If our reconstruction is correct, the south atrium would have opened onto a major east-west road through the neighborhood. The newly constructed narthex would have provided access to this courtyard or atrium through the southwest room which linked the narthex to the south portico. Paradoxically, then, the need for an open space around the basilica may have been more important than the somewhat more formal and covered narthex. 

Re-imagining the Basilica at E.F2 at Polis-Chrysochous

November 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tomorrow I head off to the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. You can check out the full program here (.pdf).

Our panel is at 8:20 AM on Friday morning:

5C City of Gold: Archaeological excavations at Polis Chrysochous, Cyprus

Theme: This session details the exhibition, City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus (Princeton University Art Museum, October 20, 2012–January 20, 2013), about the cities of Marion and Arsinoe that underlie modern-day Polis Chrysochous, and some of the research developed during the period leading up to the exhibition.

CHAIR: Joanna S. Smith (Princeton University), Presiding

8:20 Daniel Kershaw (The Metropolitan Museum of Art),
“Design Process and Evolution for the Exhibition, City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus, in the Princeton University Art Museum from October 20, 2012–January 20, 2013” (20 min.)

8:45 Nikitas Tampakis (Princeton University),
“Digitally Reviving the Buildings of Marion for Museum Display” (20 min.)

9:10 William A. P. Childs (Princeton University),
“Cypriot Aesthetics” (20 min.)

R. Scott Moore (Indiana University of Pennsylvania),
Brandon R. Olson (Boston University)
Tina Najbjerg (Independent Scholar),
“Chasing Arsinoe: A Reassessment of the Hellenistic Period” (20 min.)

William Caraher (University of North Dakota, Grand Forks)
Amy Papalexandrou (The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey),
“Re-imagining the Basilica at E.F2 at Polis Chrysochous” (20 min.)

Of course, I know my dear readers expect a sneak preview of our paper. Our paper is essentially a slightly tweaked and truncated version of the Polis section of my paper delivered at the University of Texas earlier in the fall. (If you must, you can compare it here.) This paper reflects four seasons of tireless work by some very dedicated collaborators (R. Scott Moore, Brandon Olson, and, of course, Amy Papalexandrou) and the enthusiastic support of the project director Joanna Smith and her predecessor Willie Childs. The ideas in this paper are heading toward a 10,000-12,000 word report for publication that summarizes four seasons of work at the South Basilica. Each iteration involves sharpening our ideas just a little bit.


Polis, Peyia, and Amathus Basilicas in a Comparative Context

November 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

This past year, I’ve done a bunch of work on the South Basilica at Polis and written a few papers on it with my colleagues R. Scott Moore and Amy Papalexandrou. In these papers I’ve suggest that our basilica looks a good bit like the Acropolis Basilica at Amathus. In fact, I’ve even blogged about it.

I’ve followed several scholars who observed that the Acropolis Basilica was more or less square with a core that’s 13 m x 13 m. The aisles are 3 m wide and the main nave is 6 m wide forming a 1:2:1 ratio quite common on Cyprus.


My colleague Amy Papalexandrou kept cautioning me on my argument suggesting that superimposing a crude 13 x 13 x box over the dimensions of the church at Polis was not really the kind of careful measurement that these kind of proportional arguments typically depend. I soldiered on with my argument, hoping that repetition alone would make my argument stronger.


This weekend, in preparing my paper for the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting, I revisited my argument and looked more carefully at the South Basilica’s plan. The most significant observation that I could make was that the nave and aisles were closer to 14.5 x 11.2 m than the visually compelling, but not very useful 13 x 13 m square. This is basically identical to the North Basilica at Peyia and similar in size, but not proportion, to the church of Ay. Kononas on the Akamas peninsula (14.3 x 12.4) which was ironically much closer to the 1:1 ratio of the Amathus Acropolis Basilica.

The North Basilica at Peyia (or Basilica III):

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf

Ay. Kononas on the Akamas:

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf

Good dimensions are difficult to find for the North Basilica at Peyia, but it appears to be closer to the proportions of the South Basilica at Polis with the width of the nave being around 4.5 m comparable to the approximately 5 m wide at Polis. The aisles were a bit narrower at Polis, but the proportions of the width of the nave to the width of the basilica are roughly the same (2.24 for Polis and 2.49 for Peyia). The church at Peyia lacked a portico like both the South Basilica at Polis and the Amathus Acropolis Church. Moreover, the west wall of its narthex at Peyia has a tribelon rather than the  arched openings present at Amathus and Polis. These differences make it difficult to see these churches as the products of the same work crew although the similarities proportions may hint at similar units of measurement. 

Unfortunately, neither the church at Peyia nor the church at Amathus have seen complete and final publications so our understanding of the phases of construction and archaeological dates remains incomplete. The North Basilica at Peyia and the Acropolis Church at Amathus are unlikely to date earlier than the end of the 6th century and are more or less contemporary with the South Basilica at Polis. 

Coastal Sites and Maritime Trade

November 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

Two interesting articles landed on my desk over the last few days. D. Pullen’s report in the Journal of Maritime Archaeology on the site of Kalamianos in the the Korinthia and Justin Leidwanger’s article in Journal of Roman Archaeology documented a 2nd-3rd century shipwreck at the site of Fig Tree Bay on Cyprus.

Pullen argues that the impressive coastal site of Kalamianos represented interest of Mycenae in establishing a harbor on the Saronic Gulf in the Late Bronze Age. Situated adjacent to the site of Kolonna on Aigina and perhaps representing the decline in that polity’s political and military influence in the area, Kalamianos was a substantial and apparently urbanized (ing?) site situated at a peninsula that provided two relatively secure anchorages. Above the anchorages near the important Byzantine church of the Panayia at a place called Stiri stood a contemporary fortified site. This site clearly provided security for the harbor town as well as offering impressive views of the Saronic and its coastlines.

The site of Kalamianos expanded rapidly between LH IIIA to the LH IIIA2/B period, and Pullen suggests that the growth of this town must have been spurred by an external power, probably Mycenae, at this precise moment. The similarities in construction and architecture of both the site of Kalamianos and the nearby fortified site of Stiri as well as the site’s location suggests that Kalamianos established a Mycenaean presence on the Saronic perhaps to compete with a similar, contemporary site a Palaia Epidavros to further south which likely served the needs of states at Tiryns, Asine, or Midea.

In contrast, the world described in Justin Leidwanger’s study of the small shipwreck at Fig Tree Bay in eastern Cyprus was shaped, in part, by small scale coastal commerce that depended upon local producers, small harbors, and small ships. The shipwreck documented by Leidwanger was a mere 5.5 tons and found in shallow waters amidst shallow reefs and eddying currents. The maritime world represented in the small wreck at Fig Tree Bay was substantially decentralized and dominated caboteurs. The range of amphora in the ship suggest that its contents derived from the coast of Cilicia or southwest Syria, but the presence of relatively unusual amphora (Gauloise 4) suggests ties to Western Mediterranean as well. The destination for these vessels was unclear, but I’d like to think it planned to stop at Pyla-Koutsopetria before making its way along the south coast of the island. It seems likely that the assemblage of material onboard this small trading craft reflects stops at small ports throughout the region.

These two article represent the two prevailing (and in no way mutually exclusive) models of maritime trade. Pullen argues for Kalamianos that administrative and political imperatives exerted a significant control of trade in the Saronic Gulf, and the rapid growth and short life of Kalamianos is a direct result of Mycenaean policies. Our site of Pyla-Koutsopetria near Fig Tree Bay on Cyprus likewise expanded quickly in the late Hellenistic and Roman period. The location of Pyla-Koutsopetria at the margins of the of the powerful Iron Age kingdoms of Kition and Salamis limited its development. The site’s location was both militarily vulnerable, as the fortification at Pyla-Vigla demonstrated, but the presence of borders in the area likely limited the economic catchment available for the development of the harbor. The political, administrative, and economic restrictions on expansion of the site only abated with the end of the Iron Age political autonomy and the arrival of Hellenistic and Roman control over the island. The site does not seem to have ever been officially part of the larger administrative structure of the island. The small coastal trader who lost his ship at Fig Tree Bay was taking advantage of the political cohesion of the Eastern Mediterranean and stoping at small sites like Pyla-Koutsopetria that emerged outside of direct administrative control.  

Results from an Accidental Resurvey at Pyla-Koutsopetria

October 28, 2013 § 4 Comments

One of the benefits of preparing the data from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project for publication in Open Context is that Eric Kansa has forced the us to remember all these little irregularities in our dataset. One that Eric noted this past week was that our crack survey team re-surveyed a group of units in 2005 that we had originally surveyed in 2004.


The reason for this had to do with plotting units in an open plowed field about a half a kilometer from our benchmark. In 2005, we accidentally plotted in units that overlapped entirely with a set of units surveyed in 2004 and caught the mistake when we produced our grid in our GIS. The result of our mapping glitch is that we resurveyed 6 units from 2004 in 2005.

This mistake produced some interesting results because it allowed us to compare the same general area under two very different field conditions. In 2004 the units were covered in fresh grain stubble and surveyed very late in the afternoon under unfavorable raking light conditions. The survey sheets noted that the glare from the grain stubble and that one unit (maybe 180) was the LAST UNIT of the season. The surface visibility of the units was around 40 (43.3 on average).

A year later, the units were almost completely clear of stubble with just a slight scatter of weeds. The visibility was 100% and we walked the units about an hour (and a month) earlier. The walkers did not mention glare or any other difficulties identifying the ceramics on the surface.

The results were almost too good to be predictable. The 2004 units produced 1292 artifacts per hectare and the 2005 units produced 2484 artifacts per hectare. Remarkably these units produced slightly over 50% more material in 2005 reflecting the improvement in visibility in something close to a linear fashion.

The units produced assemblages that are reassuringly similar. The 2004 survey produced 8 chronological periods and the 2005 units produced 14. Some key periods were represented in 2005 and absent in 2004: Archaic (1), Hellenistic-Early Roman (2), Early Roman (1), Late Medieval (1), and Ottoman sherds (1), but in all these cases it was no more than two sherds. The other periods that appeared in 2005 were all broad units (with time spans over 1000 years) like post-prehistoric and Medieval-Modern. From a chronological perspective, all of the narrow periods that appeared only in 2005 were accounted for in broader chronological periods in 2004 (e.g. Medieval and Roman) except the single Archaic sherd.  

Despite these new periods, the overall chronological distribution of material from both sets of units was similar. The 2004 units produced 35% Late Roman pottery and the 2005 units produced 39%. The Roman material was about 5% for both surveys.

Interestingly, the survey in 2004 produced twice as much diagnostic fine ware than the 2005 survey, but otherwise the proportions were almost identical with utility wares (coarse, medium coarse, and amphora sherds) accounting for 83% of the assemblage in 2004 and 86% in 2005. Kitchen/Cooking wares accounted for 4% and 5% respectively.

The take away from this little analysis is that despite the significant difference in the number of sherds counted and collected, the two assemblages were nearly identical with only a handful of sherds appearing in 2005 that made any chronological or functional difference in the area.

Pretty cool, huh?


Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Cyprus category at The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 364 other followers

%d bloggers like this: