Analyzing Residual Ceramics in a Fill Deposit

I know this isn’t one of my best titles ever, but it describes what I am trying to do pretty accurately. As we move toward a comprehensive preliminary study of the basilica in area EF2 at the site of Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus, we want to be able to say something about some of the ceramic assemblages associated with the buildings. In particular, we have a massive fill level that we have tentatively associated with the second phase in the construction of the basilica.

The fill is dated by both coins and ceramics to the middle decades of the 7th century an consisted over 3000 pieces of broken pottery. Because the excavators did not save all pottery and tended to discard less apparently diagnostic artifacts, the fill consisted over over 40% fine ware (compared to 9% transport amphora sherds, 32% utility wares (primarily storage vessels and other less diagnostic coarse and medium coarse fabric sherds), and 15% kitchen wares). While it may be possible to reconstruct what they discarded into the pottery dump, for now we think that the assemblage is more or less representative of what was excavated.

imageCRS Sherds in the R09 Fill at Polis

The majority of fineware in this assemblage is Cypriot Red Slip (or, what we maybe should call Late Roman D Ware). The chronology of the assemblage represents almost the full chronological range of CRS production which began some time in the 4th century and perhaps continued as late as the 8th. Like many significant assemblages of CRS, CRS9 and its variants (largely identified by Henryk Meyza and his work at nearby Paphos) make up the largest percentage of our material. The particularly production long life of CRS9 (beginning in 400 and continuing with some variation to almost the end of the 7th century) might account for its preponderance in our assemblage.

Unlike many other sites on the island the Polis R09 Fill had an impressive quantity of CRS8 an CRS11 sherds.

CRS11

These likely date to the final century (or 150 years) of CRS production. The size of CRS11 vessels and the distinct folded-over shape of the rim of many of the CRS11 basins found at our site may suggest a local production center, although the rim of the vessel shown above is similar and comes from Anemurium in Asia Minor.

Our percentages are similar to those produced by the nearby Canadian Palaiopaphos Survey Project, but they identified fewer CRS11 sherds.

imageCPSP CRS Assemblage

A nearly contemporary assemblage associated with two basilica churches excavated by Marcus Rautman at Kopetra on Cyprus also produced a similar distribution of forms.

imageCRS from Kopetra

The main difference between the CSPS and Kopetra assemblages are that they probably represent a wide range of depositional processes from discard to (perhaps) use. Our assemblage from trench R09 at Polis is probably all secondary discard and two steps removed from its primary use context. It was deposited as a single event, but the material likely derived from a range of domestic discards.

UPDATE: One more example, here are the different forms documented by the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project.

image

One Comment

  1. […] Red Slip (CRS) forms we analyzed this year. Bill Caraher reflected a bit on this last week in his blog. The number of CRS sherds we discovered was pretty amazing, and has provided us a large corpus of […]

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