What Our Survey Volume Did Not Do

One of the best things that I’ve done over the last four weeks is think about how I would change the survey volume we are on the verge of publishing from our with with the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project on Cyprus. Thing of this as a preview of what the book is not. 

My main inspiration for this came from Andrew Bevan’s and James Connolly’s recently published monograph on their work on the island of Antikythera (for some review comments see here and here). They included a small section dedicated to the limits of their study and field methods. While short,  this nevertheless struck me as a particularly valuable and honest reflection on their archaeological decision making, and we have decided – rather late in the process of revision – to include a few words on the limits of our work here.

Quantitative Methods and Survey Data

Survey archaeology has long been indebted to quantitative analysis. Chapters 2, 3, and 5 of our volume present a wide range of sometimes overlapping analyses of our survey data. We have kept our quantitative analyses rather simple throughout owing largely to the limits of our experience and training in quantitative methods. We hope, however, that the simplicity of much of our quantitative analysis belies the complexity of our conclusions, but we also appreciate that scholars better versed in statistics, for example, might find both untapped significance in our data as well as problems with our interpretations. To encourage the critical re-examination of our data, we will simultaneously released both the data collected from the field and our finds data through the Open Context interface. We hope that by making our data available, scholars can not only continue to interrogate our data in new and more sophisticated ways, but also link it to other similar datasets from across both Cyprus and the Mediterranean more broadly.

Distributional Analysis

The center-piece of our book is the careful study of the distribution of material across our site. From the start we recognized the artifact as the basic unit of analysis and this prompted our detailed approach to sampling the surface, the development of an extensive catalogue, and the substantial dataset. This attention was inspired by siteless survey and allowed us to represent our study area as a single assemblage. At the same time, the distribution of artifacts across the study area and the variations in surface conditions and topography prompted us to divide the survey area into a series of zones. The zones are fundamentally arbitrary as they do not represent any single, historically stable set of variables, but are a heuristic concession to our need to describe our study area in text. As a result, our erstwhile commitment to distributional analysis has become compartmentalized by our need to describe our study area in a more accessible way. We hope that this compromise does not undermine the significance of our results.

Catalogues and Finds

As part of our commitment to distributional, artifact-level analysis we have presented an extensive catalogue of artifacts from the survey area. Without the benefit of stratigraphy, the catalogue primarily represents a sample of the specific evidence upon which our argument rests. Unlike an excavation catalogue that can provide independent comparanda for datable artifact types, our survey catalogue represents how we have interpreted existing typologies. As a result, it should be used with some care as reliance on our catalogue for the chronology artifacts risks does not represent an independent source of information. Moreover, we hope that by including artifacts that we could assign only to broad periods that other scholars will be able to refine these identifications or overturn them entirely.

It is worth noting that we selected artifacts for inclusion in the catalogue as they came out of the field and underwent preliminary identification, and prior to our more sophisticated and extensive analysis of the landscape. Artifacts suitable for cataloguing were set aside in separate crates, photographed, and labeled whereas the rest of the artifacts were returned to the bags associated with particular units. At some point after our preliminary analysis and recording of the survey finds, the bags vanished in the densely packed storerooms of the museum, leaving us only with those artifacts set aside for cataloging. As you can see from our extensive catalogue and robust dataset this did not substantively effect our analysis, but it did mean that we could not augment the catalogue in response to our more in-depth distributional analysis.

Excavation, Geophysical, Geomorphology, and Survey

Like many archaeological projects, the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project developed new directions through time. In 2005, Prof. Jay Noller in collaboration with the Cyprus Geological Survey took a series of core samples from the embayment and we had hoped that the results of this coring would be available for this publication along with a more detailed treatment of the geomorphology of the area. Unfortunately, this did not occur and most of our discussion of the local geology derives from a report first published in the RDAC in 2005. We remain optimistic that the publication of the cores will support our overall conclusions.

In 2008, the Department of Antiquities gave us permission to excavate several areas of the survey to ground truth the results of our study of the surface assemblage and to assist in the publication of Dr. Maria Hadjicosti’s excavations at the basilica site in the Koutsopetria plain. In preparation for excavation in 2008 and 2009, we conducted a campaign of geophysical work which included both resistivity with John Hunt of Limassol and ground penetrating radar under the supervision of Prof. Beverly Chirulli of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The results of these investigations provided us with information that guided our excavations, they also confirmed the extent of architecture on the height of Vigla, the Koutsopetria plain, and on the plateau of Kokkinokremos in a non-invasive way. Regrettably, the results of this field work are not publishable in their current form with the exception of the work conducted on Kokkinokremos which appeared in Michael Gareth Brown’s 2011 University of Edinburgh’s dissertation Landscape and Settlement in South-East Cyprus: The Late Bronze Age Origins of a Phoenician Polity.

Finally, our initial plan was to publish the results of our survey alongside the results of excavation at the site. The significance of our work at the site of Pyla-Vigla and delays in the study of the results of our work and Dr. Maria Hadjicosti’s excavations at Pyla-Koutsopetria led us to move ahead with the publication of the results of our survey. This change of plans is particular apparent in Chapters 4 and 6 where our analysis of both artifacts and features respectively benefit from our excavations. Preliminary reports on our excavations on Vigla will appear in the next published volume of the RDAC and in the 2013 volume of the Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections. A complete publication of our excavations is currently in preparation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s