Working at Polis

For the last week or so, I’ve been working with Scott Moore and Brandon Olson at Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus. This is a ongoing publication project focused on the study of the Hellenistic and later material. We started our work in the area around the South Basilica (or E.F2 in Polis lingo), and Brandon Olson continues to work on the Hellenistic material from there. 

Scott Moore and I have shifted our attention from E.F2 to a small excavated area around E.F1. Over the last week, we’ve read most of the pottery from the area and unpacked the stratigraphy as best we can. Now, we’re working on writing up the phases and commenting on the function of the area.

IMG 4644

This work has yielded some intriguing results.

First, we’re beginning to define certain horizons across the area and seem to have at least two phases of Late Antique activities at the site. One is earlier, perhaps dating to the 5th century, and the other seems to date to late 6th and early 7th century, and both are defined by ceramic assemblages. We also have an earlier 1st c. BC/1st c. AD horizon across the site and Brandon is working to put together an assemblage of Early Hellenistic material. (What is particularly cool about these early Hellenistic assemblages is that they link our material from Polis to some of our excavated assemblages from Pyla-Koutsopetria on the eastern part of the island.) We hope these assemblages both inform how we understand the site of Polis, but also how we understand these periods across the island as a whole.

IMG 4645

Secondly, so far the areas we have studied at Polis have shown signs of industrial activity ranging from ceramic production to iron work. EF1 has a rather expansive and clearly defined level filled with iron slag. We also found an usually large number of pithoi (storage vessels), a few amphora stands, and a funnel which also may have industrial functions. We hope that our work will not only help us date the slag and various utilitarian ceramics as well as slowly piece together the history of settlement in this section of the city.

15 Aug 1989 E F1 r05 pdf 1 page

Finally, the area of E.F1 showed several phases of architectural activity which begins at bedrock. With any luck we’ll be able to unpack these architectural phases to understand the shape of this room and hallway at various times in its history. The site is small, the assemblages manageable, and the problems seem relatively minor, but part of the fun of archaeology is that everything seems to make sense before you try to write it down.

As someone with very uneven archaeological experience consisting of several years of survey, a few seasons of excavation, and some weeks in storerooms looking at pottery and notebooks, projects like Polis help me learn to think more systematically as an archaeologist. Going through past notebooks, scrutinizing ceramics and building schematic diagrams of horizontal and vertical relationships has helped me learn to understand how excavation produces knowledge. I may never be a good or “real” archaeologist, but I hope that working through the site of E.F1 (and E.F2) and taking a few weeks a year to immerse myself in the complexities of spatial relationship, chronology, artifact typologies, and ancient actives will help me be better able to understand archaeological evidence when it’s deployed in the service of historical arguments.

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