A Byzantine Body

I’ve been working in a stop/start way on developing our GIS for the Polis project. My main goal this winter is to prepare a basic GIS plan for the entire EF2 area and to add various burials to this plan. In general, this is a tedious task that involves many hours of tracing stones and georeferencing poorly prepared field drawings.

Every now and then, however, there is a little discovery that provides some motivation.  For example, over the course of preparing an essay for the upcoming City of Gold: The Archaeology of Polis Chrysochous, Cyprus exhibition, I checked the location of a burial that I georeferenced this summer. The burial was excavated at a fairly high elevation in 1984.  In fact, it appears to be the highest burial in the large cemetery to the south of the church at the site of EF2. 

The notebook description of this burial’s excavation was predictably short:

Burial 10 was removed and burial 11 uncovered. With burial 11 was found Find #4, a green stone crucifix (see drawing p. 42). Glass fragments were also unearthed around burial 11.

More interesting, however, is its location. The head of the body appears to intersect with the east wall of the south portico. In the original publication of this site, the excavators and architects assumed that the south portico was a rather late edition. We have since suggested that it was added rather early in the history of the church perhaps at the same time as the similarly articulated western narthex.

Burial11

With the discovery (so to speak) of this burial, we can add to the history of this portico by suggesting that its destruction perhaps predated the complete abandonment of the church.  Since the head of Burial 11 crossed the line of the foundation of the east wall of the south portico, it is difficult to imagine that this wall was still standing to an substantial height.  In other words, the body in Burial 11 was probably interred after the east wall of the south portico had collapsed.  Our current assumptions regarding the collapse of the south part of the church (and this is exceedingly tentative) is that the southwestern part of the narthex collapsed by the 11th century AD.  This collapse almost certainly compromised the western wall of the south portico and it might have marked the collapse of the south wall of the south aisle (although this is not clear). So it might be that Burial 11 dates to after the 11th c. AD.

Making this burial even more interesting was the presence of Find #4, a small pectoral cross, illustrated and described in the notebook. This cross – I think – is going to appear in the City of Gold exhibition.

PolisNBBurial11

There were not enough other finds from Burial 11 (or we haven’t analyzed them yet) to draw any firm conclusions in the date of the burial, but it does hint at the continued use of the site for burial perhaps even after the south portico was structurally compromised and perhaps after the church itself went out of use.  These little discoveries keep me motivated to continue the tedious work of digitizing plans.

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