Re-imagining the Basilica at EF2 at Polis-Chrysochous

As readers of this blog know, I am involved with some great scholars on a long term research project at the site of Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus. To date our work has primarily focused on the basilica-style church in the area of EF.2. The church was built toward the end of the 5th or beginning of the 6th century and then stood for half a millennium (or there abouts). The church stood in an area that was a center of activity from the Hellenistic period, a busy intersection in Roman times, and continued to support houses, burials, and manufacturing into the Byzantine epoch.   

NewImage

The church is a wild and sexy thing. During its hard life, it saw numerous architectural interventions ranging from what might have been an almost total reconstruction to slight structural and aesthetic tweaks. Traditional architectural history attempts to document the life of a building like this in terms of coherent phases that then collate with larger narratives of architectural development typically on a regional or even trans-Mediterranean scale. Our church is a reluctant partner in this kind of undertaking.

Any effort to push the buttresses, wall-thickenings, reconstructions, re-uses, floors, fills, and other evidence for architectural modification into well-defined phases has so far met with total frustration. This is not to say that the church did not see major episodes of modification, but that final plan of the church came about as much through a series of minor architectural responses as to major cohesive interventions.  

The resulting image of our church is less a testimony to the orderly progress of regional styles as the industrious work of a community. And we submitted an abstract to the Annual Meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research to this effect: 

Re-imagining the Basilica at EF2 at Polis-Chrysochous

Bill Caraher, University of North Dakota
Amy Papalexandrou, Independent Scholar (Austin, Texas)

Over the last four study seasons, a “Medieval Team” consisting of Amy Papalexandrou, Bill Caraher, Scott Moore, Brandon Olson, and Sarah Lepinski have worked to document the basilica style church at the site of EF.2 at Polis-Chrysochous. This building and its immediate vicinity were excavated over a 25 year period beginning in the early 1980s. While excavators successfully articulated the architecture, they made little headway unpacking the complex stratigraphy of this part of the site. To do this, our project has created a relational database that integrates transcribed notebook information, inventoried finds, and context pottery. We complemented this archaeological data with renewed study, documentation, and imaging of the architectural remains to create a substantially revised phase plan for this building. This work makes a significant contribution to history of Early Christian and Medieval architecture on Cyprus by reinforcing the dynamism of Christian architecture and establishing that the transition from wood-roofed to vaulted basilicas can dates to earlier than previously expected. Moreover, these conclusions also provide a useful opportunity to reflect upon the potential to integrate new imaging technology with models for digitizing legacy data and integrating it with new analysis.

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