Introduction to the Pyla-Koutsopetria Survey Volume: Connectivity and Intensification

Over the last week or so I’ve been working on writing the introduction to the publication of our survey work at the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project (PKAP). I have never written an introduction for a volume like this so David Pettegrew gently nudged me to write on the two issues that have most informed our work: connectivity of sites across the Mediterranean and intensification of survey methods. 

The former derives from Horden and Purcell’s work, The Corrupting Sea (2000). The first five chapters of this book argue for a new way to see the Mediterranean based on a dense network of interconnected microregions. A microregion is an area defined by the interplay between the available environmental resources and human efforts to exploit these resources. For Horden and Purcell these microregions are the key constitutive elements of the Mediterranean world. Their connection to other microregions, however, is what allows them to become the locus for human activities. Small scale trade provided by cabotage and other informal types of communication and travel forms the vital links to other microregions. These links ensure that each microregion has economic outlets, social insurance against local environmental risks, and access to larger social and political institutions. 

The site of Pyla-Koutsopetria corresponds to a microregion as we have been able to recognize a modest set of environmental resources ranging from an small embayment to easily quarried stone, a defensible topography, a location at the periphery of political power on the island, and access to key land routes through the area. These resources provided a context for the responses from the people who made this area home for over 3000 years. These responses – which readers of this blog undoubtedly know – ranged from fortifications to the distinct forms of engagement with trans-Mediterranean markets, hybridized religious sanctuaries, and economic prosperity.

Horden and Purcell do not argue for a specific method for the documenting and studying of microregions. Scholars have argued for quite some time that intensive pedestrian survey provides an ideal tool for documenting the human response to their environment of the regional scale. While the differences between region (as defined by intensive pedestrian survey project) and mircoregions (as defined by Horden and Purcell) remains a bit opaque, we argue that the gradual intensification of pedestrian survey methods in the Mediterranean have made this technique well-suited for the documentation of trends over areas larger than those susceptible to excavation, but smaller than the a region of several hundred square kilometers.

Much of our discussions on the ground in Cyprus have centered on how we should adjust our methods to document a dense scatter of artifacts that extends for over 40 ha set in a study area of close to 200 ha. In the end, we attempted to balance the need to collect a robust and representative sample of the material on the group against the need to avoid the inefficient collection of redundant or meaningless data. We created units that were either 40 x 40 or 80 x 80 meters in size depending on artifact densities. These units became the primary space for sampling the artifact assemblages on the surface of the ground. In effect, each unit became a context for a specific sample that we could then document in detail and in an efficient way. These units were significantly smaller than those typically used my a regional survey project, but at the same time larger than the most intensive “site based” survey methods designed to document a single village, villa, or fortification. 

By adjusting the methods of intensive pedestrian survey to the scale of the microregion we were successful in documenting in a rigorous and systematic way the significant surface assemblage present in the Pyla-Koutsopetria microregion. We also followed recent trends toward increasing the intensity of survey methods to capture intrasite variations, difficult to recognize periods and artifact types, and the furtive traces of short term or low intensity human activities on the ground.

We hope our volume, which is very close to being complete, will demonstrate that at least for our site, intensive survey methods can bring to light the dynamic complexity of Mediterranean microregions. 

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