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.
June 11, 2013 § Leave a Comment
While helping our ceramicist, Scott Moore, make his way through thousands of pot sherds excavated from the basilica at EF2 at Polis, I’ve been working on writing up some of the preliminary observations on the architecture of the church. Among the most interesting aspects of the the church, is how the builders managed water at the site. The position of the church perpendicular to the north slope of a hill exposed it to apparently significant flow of water. Moreover, the entire area of E.F2 seems to be riddled with well, drains, and water pipes suggesting that water management was more than just an issue for the builders of the church.
The exposed foundation wall of the south aisle of the basilica. The exposed walls running under the basilica are beneath the rubble drainage layer.
Here is what I penned in the gaps between batches of pottery of the last few days on issues of water and architecture at the basilica at EF2. It’s all provisional and a work in progress, but it’s what I’ve been thinking about the last couple of weeks here at Polis.
From as early as the Hellenistic period there is evidence for concerns about water at the area of E.F2. There are numerous wells in the area associated with the workshops to the south and west of the basilica in the Hellenistic period. The Roman period saw the construction of complex systems of water pipes associated with the paved roads and what appear to be settling basins and drains. White most of these features likely contributed to water supply for various industrial and domestic activities in the city of Polis, it is possible that they also served the important role of water management in the area of EF2. The location of EF2 on the slop of a hill likely exposed the site to the risk of season flooding especially in the event of torrential Mediterranean winter rains.
Several unusual features in the architecture of the the basilica appear designed to protect the foundations of the basilica from the flow of water south to north across the site. On the foundations, below the level of visible walls, a plaster lip protected ran along the roughly mortared foundation of field stones of both the eastern apse and the south side of the basilica. The plaster lip or rim was best preserved along the foundation of the eastern apse where it extended for approximately 15 cm. The purpose of this rim appears to be to prevent water from running down along the foundation through the less densely packed earth associated with the foundation cut. Elsewhere along the line of the foundation excavations revealed sections of foundation wall covered with moist green clay (S06.1991.8). In other places in EF2, similar clay was associated with roof fall, and the water proof character of this clay has led to its continued use to seal roofs even until relatively recent times (e.g. H10.1997.11,4 (vol 1., 55). It seems, then, that the builders of the basilica made an effort to seal the foundations of the church against both water run off from the roof of the building or the surface and the seepage of ground water.
The south side of the basilica saw a more substantial effort to manage the flow of water downslope in the area. The continued presence of a paved road along the upsloap, south side of the church and the probable existence of an open courtyard immediately to the south of the building exposed the southern foundation wall and the piers supporting the south portico to the corrosive effects of water run off. In an effort to counter this risk of water destabilizing the south foundations of the church, the builders designed the courtyard to act as a massive drain. Beneath a level of limey, packed earth which probably represented the ground surface of the courtyard, a loose level rubble which in some places exceeded a meter in depth may have functioned as a massive French drain designed to prevent water from pooling against the south wall of the church and running down running directly down the soft foundation cuts of for the walls. Instead, the porous character of the rubble level served to slow the flow of water south and perhaps even allow it to drain away prior to reaching the vulnerable south wall of the basilica.
The rubble layer is most likely contemporary with the first phase of the basilica and extends almost to the depth of the basilica foundation. Later burials have probably disturbed the integrity of the limey, packed, floor, but there nevertheless appears to be no pottery in the packing that is later than the 7th century with Cypriot Red Slip Form 9 being the latest present (in R09.1986.6,1-2). The massive leveling course of rubble below the floor packing was, in turn, cut by the foundation of the piers of the south portico. In levels associated with the foundations of the the south protico the latest material dates to between 600 and 700 and includes well-document Cypriot Red Slip Form 10. Below the level of the foundations, however, the material is slightly earlier, in general perhaps representing at late 6th to early 7th century date. This rubble level appears to sit immediately atop early Roman deposits dating to the 1st century BC to first AD and even earlier level of Hellenistic date. The diverse assemblage of fine wares, kitchen wares, and transport and utilities wares present in the massive rubble leveling course indicates that it was not only the product of a well-provisions and connected community, but that the rubble course was at least partially associated with discard from other locations in the community.
Roman period water pipe.
June 10, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In 2012, Scott Moore and I took on the task of attempting to understand the chronology of our basket-handled amphora. They look like this, and we found a ton of them during the survey and excavations at Pyla-Koutsopetria.
When we first encountered them, we thought that they were probably Iron Age, but as we excavated the site of Vigla we found more and more of them in what were clearly Hellenistic contexts. While pre-sorting the huge deposit of Hellenistic ceramics from the storage pit adjoining the Hellenistic fortification wall, we noticed more and more conical amphora toes in fabrics very similar to those in which the basket handles appeared. The toes had “shaved” sides where clay was removed to create the distinctive shapes and mostly appeared in buff fabrics.
As we began to encounter these handles and toes in a similar fabric, we noticed brief mentions and short articles in a range of publications on these amphora generally dating them to the Iron Age, but we had not found a comprehensive discussion or typology of these handles. This is beginning to change, however, and the very recent publication edited by Mark Lawal and John Lund titled The Transport Amphora and Trade of Cyprus offers some very useful contributions to our efforts to work out the date. In particular, contributions by K. Levent Zoroglu and Kristian Göransson demonstrate that basket-handled amphora were quite widespread in the Mediterranean basin and they might have a place of manufacture on Cyprus. Considering their common appearance on the eastern side of the island, it is tempting to look for a place of origin in the vicinity of Salamis.
Moreover, ours fit into the typology proposed by Zoroglu from his site of Kelenderis in Turkey. We have Type 3 amphora and they coincide with the dates provided through coins and other ceramics at our site.
This is an import step in clarifying the chronology and function of our site.
June 5, 2013 § 1 Comment
For the third straight year, I’ve sequestered myself for a few weeks in the lovely village of Polis-Chrysochous to commune with the notebooks from the Princeton Polis Expedition. These notebooks detail the excavations at the site of E.F2 on the Princeton grid. This site dates from the Hellenistic to Medieval period and the most conspicuous feature is an Early Christian to Medieval basilica style church. This church and the great group of colleagues working at Polis drew me to the site initially.
Since 2009, I’ve been working on producing a database from the notebooks, assisting Scott Moore and Brandon Olson in analyzing the context pottery, and integrating their work with the notebooks and the existing registry of finds. This means getting three databases to talk to each other. Two of the three – one designed to accommodate our notebooks and one designed to accommodate the new readings of the context pottery – meld together smoothly. The database accommodating the registered finds is a different matter. It was built over 20 years and is not normalized. It can only link to the other databases through a series of concordances. This is tedious stuff to develop and test.
The greatest challenge, however, is to understand the notebooks. Polis was one of the last large-scale Mediterranean excavations not to be excavated stratigraphically. Instead, excavators defined “Levels” which could be stratigraphic or simply spatial and then made “Passes” through these levels which could also be stratigraphic or simply spatial or just arbitrary. What I’ve tried to do is to superimpose a stratigraphic system on top of the existing system of levels and passes in order to understand the depositional processes that formed the archaeological record.
This is both a nightmare and a rush. Whereas some people love archaeology for the thrill of discovery, I have to admit to getting my rush in the problem solving aspects of the discipline. I love reconstructing the spatial relationships through the irregular lens of the Polis notebooks. This is a process of course. Here are the steps:
1. Read the notebooks and transcript the Level and Pass descriptions. Nothing works better than transcribing to study the details of excavation. This practice also allows me to organize the levels and passes which tended to appear almost randomly throughout the notebooks as the trench supervisors often had multiple contexts open at once.
Polis Notebook Page
2. Once we have the notebooks transcribed and analyzed, I build an informal pseudo-Harris Matrix (sometimes I call them a Franco Harris Matrix). I used Tuft University’s VUE program to attempt to illustrate the relationships between various levels.
3. This allows me to identify sensitive contexts that might be able to inform architecture or activity areas. In most cases, we can simple identify a handful of contexts that must be earlier or later than each other. Inevitably numerous contexts are lost to contamination, irregular or obscure excavation decisions, or ambiguous depositional relationships.
4. The ceramics from these contexts are read in the museum by Scott Moore or Brandon Olson, and we draw in the registered finds (typically more distinct or diagnostic objects) from that database to produce a comprehensive dataset of the finds from the level and pass.
5. Finally, at the end of the year, I bring together the read pottery, the stratigraphy, the architecture, and the finds to try to make arguments for the history of the site. We’ve been targeting specific areas of E.F2 each summer and will hopefully have the entire basilica documented by the end of this field seasons. We’re really close.
Scott Moore watching a movie from Netflix
when he should be analyzing pottery.
(Actually, he’s looking up a form in a scanned pottery volume on his iPad.)
The photo is with Camera Noir on my iPhone 5.
May 24, 2013 § 1 Comment
Scott Moore and I started work yesterday at the Larnaka District Archaeological Museum. Our first goal was to develop a method for processing the over 700 lbs of ceramic excavated in 2012 from what appears to be a stone lined storage bit abutting a Hellenistic fortification wall. Brandon Olson our Hellenistic ceramicist shows up in June to analyze these finds. Scott and I arrived a week earlier to pre-sort and pre-process as much of the material is possible to expedite the process.
The photo is out of focus and that worried me at first until I realized that the photo was fine (maybe), and I was out of focus. This little vessel resting for a time inside a tiny cup is probably a miniature and miniatures are most frequently associated with cult activities. Up to this point, we have not found any other evidence for cult activity at this site, but we know that there were sanctuaries nearby (here and here). The prominent location of the coastal height of Vigla where this material derives make it an appealing possibility.
After the first day of work in the dusty museum, I took an afternoon nap and awoke to a lovely dusk. At the end of our street, just above the Mediterranean rooflines, a few windmills turned languidly on the hills outside of Larnaka.
May 23, 2013 § 5 Comments
This is a post that might appear sometime in the next little bit on the ASOR Blog!
This past summer my excavation on Cyprus experimented with using iPads to document our excavations in the field. Since 2003, I have co-direct the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project with Prof. R. Scott Moore of Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Prof. David K. Pettegrew of Messiah College. Over this time, the three of us designed our archaeological methods, in-field procedures, and data structure. During the 2012 season, we embraced the opportunity to test and refine a web application developed by Prof. Sam Fee at Washington and Jefferson College. Messiah College generously loaned us the iPads. Our trench supervisors and excavators embraced the experiment. And Sam was willing to work within with our existing data structure, databases, and ontologies.
By iPad standards, the cleverly named PKApp was simple in design. It drew upon relatively little of the iPad’s sophisticated hardware or processing power. We did not have the resources or the funding to develop a robust server-side or mobile digital infrastructure. In fact, the simplicity of our application’s design and the limited resources available to our project is probably the most significant aspect of our work. If a small and otherwise unremarkable project can develop a bespoke iPad application, it prompts us to consider how the techniques, procedures, and methods used to collect archaeological data are no long just the purview of digital project or technophile excavators. Digital archaeology is no long a particular subset of archaeological practice, but fundamentally coterminous with careful documentation in the field.
That we could develop and deploy an application demonstrates that we have officially entered a period of rapid technological change for archaeological data collection. Mobile computing has well and truly begun to replace old fashioned pen and paper notebooks. Responses to this change range from nearly unbridled enthusiasm to concerns about how the technology actually works and how our current infrastructure will continue to adapt to rapidly growing digital archives.
Here are my three thoughts along these lines:
1. Practical Realities.
Sam Fee presents the technical details for our application in the March 2013 issue of Near Eastern Archaeology. From the user’s perspective, however, the application is straightforward and uncomplicated. It provides places to enter the basic data collected over the course of excavation as well as open text fields to record descriptions of the stratigraphy and features.
The application ran on iPad tablets, but could have run on any tablet computer (or laptops) with only some small tweaks. The iPad proved durable and effective in the field. The screens held up against the glare of the Mediterranean sun, and the batteries survived the rigors of a full field day without any issues. The application worked flawlessly as well, collecting data entered by student and depositing it nightly in a designated email account.
Just to be certain, we continued to document our trenches on paper forms. This made sure that we had a complete record of our trenches in the event of a technology failure. None occurred.
2. Methods and Procedures.
The most remarkable thing about collecting data in a digital form at the side of the trench is that we have much better control over the quality of data that our trench supervisors records. We can control the entries into the database to ensure, for example, that soil descriptions are done according to standard Munsell categories, we can prevent anyone from incorrectly numbering a stratigraphic unit, or we can ensure that trench supervisors record elevations in an appropriate format. This ability to smooth data on the side the of the trench and to avoid problematic entries improved the quality of data from the moment that we began to use the application.
At the same time, however, we created an environment where the trench supervisor typed his trench descriptions. For most academics typing – even on the cramped, on-screen keyboard of the iPad – is at least as fast as writing so speed of recording was not an issue. What did pose a challenge was understanding how a typed record of a trench might differ from a handwritten record. We noticed for example that it was easier to delete a description that proved to be incorrect or inaccurate than it would be in a notebook. In fact, as many projects, we encouraged trench supervisors to strike through mistakes in their notebooks and forms to preserve a record of how their thinking changed over time and to share scratch paper and even informal notes prepared in the field. When a trench supervisor deletes a record that change is gone. Technical details like this gave us pause as we considered how digital tools could inadvertently change the kind of data we record from the field.
3. Digital Archives.
Once we produced data in digital form, we had to think hard about how we plan to preserve it for future generations of researchers. Traditional archives exist for the preservation of paper and pen documentation, and while a new generation of digital archives has begun to emerge, the standards and technologies needed to preserve and make available digital records remains in flux. We haven’t necessarily settled on a digital repository for our data, but we will almost certainly save our data to a number of institutional repositories.
The need to have a long term digital archive, however, is just part of the issues surrounding born-digital data in archaeology. With born-digital data, the process of archiving goes from being something that occurs at the very end of the project to an ongoing concern. Each day on PKAP, for example, we sent the data recorded on the iPads to a cloud service for archiving. For the daily archive, we sent our data directly from the iPad to the commonplace service of Gmail. The data was then accessible to the project directors who could back it up on their laptops and create multiple copies ensuring that our excavation data almost simultaneously exited in multiple places. This was a satisfactory and free short term solution, but hardly a long term step to ensuring a persistent record of our work.
The remarkable thing about our use of iPads, development of a web application, creation of methods and procedures to facilitate data collection, and use of a digital archive is that none of us on the project – except Sam Fee – are “digital archaeologists”. Despite our only rudimentary familiarity with the complexities of application development and implementation, the entire experiment was remarkably painless, low cost, and produced results that were better and more secure in most ways than our use of pens and paper. The democratization of digital data collection in archaeology marks a sea change in how the field works in basic ways. Digital tools are no long the domain of sophisticated projects with substantial budgets and dedicated specialists, but there for any project willing to create strategic alliances and to take the plunge. As I noted at the top of this blog post, the days of digital data capture in archaeology are no long in the future, but upon us.
Making an App for That: A Conversation with Sam Fee on Developing In-field Applications for Archaeology
April 2, 2013 § Leave a Comment
On Friday at 11 am, Prof. Sam Fee, from Washington and Jefferson College will speak via the internets with the UND community in the Working Group in Digital and New Media Lab (O’Kelly 203). His talk is titled “Making an App for That: A conversation with Prof. Samuel Fee on developing in-field applications for archaeology”. The talk will be a conversation between me, Sam, and anyone who wants to join us from the audience.
I’ve known Sam Fee for over 20 years and he has an inspiring knack for making the complex simple and teaching archaeological methods, practices, and theories. He was one of the first archaeological bloggers who I followed regularly, and I have admired his accomplishments as a photographer.
At UND, he’ll talk about the development of the PKApp which is the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project’s custom web/tablet application for trench side data collection. We alpha/beta tested this summer on a bunch of iPad generously provided by Messiah College and wrote a short descriptive and technical piece on our experiences for Near Eastern Archaeology (that I think will appear this month).
So come by the Working Group Lab (O’Kelly 203) at 11 am on Friday to check out Sam Fee.