Summer Work: Polis 2018

I’m settling into the wonderful village of Polis-tis-Chrysochous in northwest Cyprus today after a long day of travel and a hectic end of the semester. As I recover from jet lag, I’ve found it convenient to sit awake a 2 am thinking through our priorities for this 2+ week study season.

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There are three things that I want to accomplish this summer.

1. EF1. Over the past two summers, we moved through the ceramics and stratigraphy excavated from the area a Polis designated (evocatively) as EF1. This area is – superficially – uncomplicated comprising two rooms, part of a passageway, and the remains of some kind of industrial feature. The vast majority of material from this area is Late Roman in date, and will likely reward a bit more rigorous study as we’ve become more adept at pulling apart the ceramic evidence from the 5th-late-7th century on the island.

Before we can even do that, however, we have to unpack a pretty dense (and closely superimposed) set of stratigraphic and architectural relationships. The area clearly consists of a series of walls constructed over 100 to 200 years following a similar orientation and perhaps supporting similar functions. Like in so many places at Polis, the control over water to manage drainage and to harness its energy in productive ways is important.

2. After Late Antiquity. The next thing that we’re working on is preparing material for our Medieval (and later) ceramicist to analyze. Over the last 10 years we’ve been filtering our research to avoid – except when absolutely necessary – the post-Late-Roman material from Polis. Fortunately, this has been pretty easy to do owing to the abundance of Late Roman questions (and material) available at the site. 

Nevertheless, we’ve felt like we can only see part of the picture and it is clear that many of our buildings and areas under study continued to function into the Medieval period with significant post-Ancient phases and transformations. This follows recent trends that have extended the reach of the long-late-antiquity well into the 7th, 8th, and even 9th centuries. On Cyprus, a growing interest in this continuity complements a critique of the “condominium” centuries, the impact of the Arab raids, and new assessment of interaction between Cyprus and the Near East in the Early Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. 

3. Other projects. The great and somewhat depressing thing about our work at Polis is that it has an almost unlimited number of research projects just waiting for someone willing to give them time and energy. For example, we have an assemblage of Roman lamps that need to be published, we have a seemingly infinite assemblage of Roman and Late Roman pottery that could be documented, quantified, and analyzed to shed light on the connections between the Cyprus and the wider Roman world, and we have (of course) another Early Christian basilica that is begging for study.

While we probably won’t be able to complete or even really get started on these other projects, there’s nothing more motivating than being around the sites and the material. Already, an hour standing around looking closely at EF1 produced certain insights that looking at a plan would not. Stay tuned for updates over the next couple of weeks!

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