Pyla-Koustopetria Archaeology Project: Churning On

This blog began – back in 2005 or whenever – to share news from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project with our various friends, supporters, and colleagues. Since that time, I’ve written well over 100 posts on various PKAP related topics both on this blog and in the archive. It’s a bit sobering to realize that I haven’t posted about PKAP for so long, but since David Pettegrew, Scott Moore, and I have spent the last few weeks working on PKAP related materials, it seems like a fine time for an update.

J74701 Pyla Koutsopetria 1993 Ar I

We are working to prepare a complete draft of the excavations at the site. The PKAP team conducted three seasons of targeted excavation at the sites of Pyla-Vigla, Pyla-Koutsopetria, and (in a rather strange situation) at Pyla-Kokkinokremos. We are working to publish the results of our work at Pyla-Vigla and Pyla-Koutsopetria and the description of the stratigraphy and phases associated with our work is largely done. Pyla-Vigla is a Hellenistic fortified site with three very clear phases. Koutsopetria is an Early Christian basilica. 

We are also working to publish the results from two earlier campaigns of excavation at the site of Koutsopetria by Maria Hadjicosti and the Department of Antiquities in 1993 and 1999. During these campaigns an annex room (Room 1) and part of the apse of the basilica were exposed. This is a more complicated project since we do not have the excavation notebooks (if they ever existed) for the project, but have a record of inventoried finds and the context pottery from the various excavated context. Ordinarily this would be a massive challenge for anyone trying to reconstruct the stratigraphy and phases of the building, but we had two advantages. First, we had David Pettegrew’s meticulous patience and willingness to solve archaeological problems. He went through the all of the records that we do have – mainly elevations and horizontal grid coordinates. – and created a series of plausible levels and passes. The other advantage was that the excavations mostly removed collapse and encountered only very small lenses that can be associated with the site’s pre-collapse abandonment. Complementing David’s work is analysis of ceramic artifacts by R. Scott Moore and the analysis of the painted plaster, molded gypsum, and various architectural fragments by Sarah Lepinski. 

For my part, I’ve taken David’s careful analysis and combined it with the Scott Moore and Sarah Lepinski’s work to produce a narrative of the building excavated over 20 years ago. The results so far have been intriguing. Here are a few little things:

1. Abandonment. It seems almost certain that Room 1 was largely abandoned at the time of collapse, but the absence of material later than the first half of the 7th-century suggests that it wasn’t abandoned for very long. The presence of several almost complete artifacts – including an African Red Slip 105 plate – on the floor of Room 1 hint that some material remained scattered about the space. Graffiti incised on architectural features perhaps indicates that the room had acquired a more casual function toward the end of its life.

2. Collapse. Room 1 appears to have collapsed to the south. Roof tiles appear immediately above the floor on the southern third of the room suggesting that the roof and the second story slid fell onto the floor perhaps as the south wall of the room fell to the south. The northern part of the room has more debris above the floor and fewer tiles made it to the floor level, likewise suggesting that the north wall collapsed into the room toward the south pushing the roof into the southern part of the room.

3. Residual Sherds. One of the coolest things about the levels excavated in 1993 is that they produced not only some relatively well-preserved Late Roman artifacts, but also a significant quantity of earlier material. Most of this earlier material – including easily identifiable Early Roman and Hellenistic fine wares – appears only as tiny sherds, typically smaller than 10 grams in weight. It would appear that most of this earlier material came from the coarse mortar used in the walls of Room 1 and in the packing associated with the floor of the second story. As we appreciated this residual assemblage of pottery deriving from various construction contexts in the building, we got to wonder about the scatter of Early Roman and Hellenistic pottery identified in the survey of the region and how much of that material might come from similarly residual contexts.

There is obviously much more that we can say about the excavations and as we pull together the finds, the phases, and the architecture. So stay tuned!

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