For the last week, I’ve been working on a grant application for study work next year at the site of Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus. It’s timely not only because the grant application is due on November 1st, but also because an exhibit dedicated to the work at Polis titled City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus will open this weekend at Princeton Art Museum (the exhibit catalogue is available for pre-order at Amazon).
As writing grant proposals tend to do, I began to think through the major possible outcomes of our work. For those of you who don’t follow this blog, I’ve been working with a diverse team of archaeologists at Polis-Chrysochous for the past two summers. We have focused out work on the Late Roman to Medieval phases of the site particularly those in the area of E.F2. Most of this work focused on the basilica there which was built toward the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century and continued to function into the Medieval period. Last summer, we began to get more serious about integrating material from the earlier periods into the system we created to process stratigraphy from the later phases.
So far, we have identified three main research issues that intersect with the analysis of stratigraphy at E.F2.
1. A Neighborhood through Time. The area of E.F2 is defined by the intersection of two roads which is marked in the Roman period by a quadrafons arch. Earlier Hellenistic material seems to respect the orientation of the roads (at least in a general way) and later architecture seems to respect the road and perhaps even echoes the design of the arch. The blocks surrounding this intersection preserve evidence for industrial activity (a kiln), significant hydraulic infrastructure (both to facilitate drainage and to tap subterranean sources of water), habitation, and religious structures (namely, but perhaps not exclusively the Early Christian basilica). The careful analysis of the stratigraphy will allow us to track the transformation of a neighborhood through time and to see the interplay between change and continuity in the urban fabric.
2. Spolia and Reuse. One of the most vibrant and significant conversations in Mediterranean archaeology today centers on the reuse of earlier architectural material in later construction. Recent scholarship has come to emphasize the local context for the reuse of material as an important theater for memory and ritual. In fact, the reuse of material from older buildings on the same site may have served to commemorate the process of transforming the local environment. While studies of spolia have tended to emphasize elaborate and monumental constructions, the neighborhood of E.F2 preserves many other less obvious examples of reuse. The reuse of earlier material in these more modest and less visible ways nevertheless left physical evidence for the process of transforming space.
3. Residuality. Recent work on the persistence of earlier ceramics in much later contexts has challenged the way that we understand ceramic assemblages in an archaeological context. Attention to the presence of earlier ceramics in deposits clearly dated to many hundred years later provides insights both into formation processes and our tendency to understand the use cycle of ceramics as providing important measures for the date of deposits. The range of contexts present at E.F2 provide a veritable residually laboratory. Contexts range from use contexts to a range of small and large scale fills which preserve ceramics dating to hundreds of years.