The Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute is 40 years old next year. As part of our efforts to recognize its important place in the archaeology of Cyprus, the board of trustees has invited long-time (and relatively more recent) friends of CAARI to contribute reminiscences to their webpage over the next few months.
I wrote up some of my memories of my first trip to CAARI close to 15 years ago and tried to articulate what the collegiality of the place, the leadership and generosity of its directors, and how hot it was the first night I spent there.
As a relative newcomer to Cyprus and to CAARI, I can’t conjure memories of the early days or evoke images of half-forgotten figures, places, and events. My arrival at CAARI with my friends and collaborators, Scott Moore and David Pettegrew, was in May of 2003. I had just completed and defended my dissertation but had not yet received my degree, found a academic (or even non-academic!) job, or even decided what to do next. We landed in Larnaka with the goal of prospecting some coastal sites near Pyla village for a possible new project, as well as checking out the antiquities of the island which I had never seen.
I had just spent a couple years at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and was helping wrap up a survey project in the Corinthia and on the island of Kythera. I had become familiar with what I understood to be a kind of stuffy, formal archaeology characterized by anxious and awkward gatherings at the American School and what I perceived (as a student) to be a minefield of professional rivalries and secret knowledge. Whether this was literally true or not, coming to Cyprus felt like a new start.
Our first night on Cyprus was in the hostel at CAARI. It was hot despite being May and the hostel was empty. There was a pesky mosquito buzzing in my ear all night and no matter how I moved or shifted, I could not get cooler or more comfortable. I can honestly say that this first night in the hostel was the last uncomfortable moment that I had at CAARI. Our meeting the next day with then director Tom Davis was collegial and supportive and entirely without pretension. The friendly and relaxed library was full of hidden gems ranging from unpublished dissertation manuscripts to obscure Cypriot periodicals. The strange echoes of footfalls in the atrium traced my route between the library and the room that housed the photocopier for a long day of research. They continue to draw me back to CAARI, although never as often as I’d like.
Over my almost 15 years of work on the island CAARI has been an invaluable resource as I’ve explored the archaeology of Cyprus. Directors Tom Davis and Andrew McCarthy have both been professional models for my own academic and intellectual development and steered me and my colleagues through some tricky political situations with our work at Pyla-Koutsopetria. Vathoulla Moustoukki has always made our visits to CAARI efficient and full of happiness. The annual CAARI workshop revealed the range of archaeological work and, more importantly, revealed the spirit of sharing on the island extended well beyond the CAARI community. The well-lubricated socializing at the CAARI reception after the workshop was for many years the end of season party that every project hoped to have, and connected me to colleagues and collaborators who continue to support my career.
The last few years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as a member of the CAARI board, and it has reminded me that the comfortable and welcoming confines of CAARI represents the tireless energies of both the staff and current and past trustees. And while I haven’t managed to visit CAARI as much as I’d like over the last few years, the regular reports keep me informed of its ongoing transformation and persistent commitment to everyone who cares about the archaeology of Cyprus.