Concluding Pyla-Koutsopetria

Over the last 5 years, my colleagues and I have been struggling to bring our work at Pyla-Koutsopetria to a close. We have largely stepped away from work there (which continues under the direction of Brandon Olson and Tom Landvatter), but have struggled to publish the results of our three seasons of excavation at the site. I suspect that the main reason for this is that growing sense that with the final publication of our work there, that project is over

And when we confront the end of our first major project, all of us start to feel our age and the ephemeral character of all academic work. It’s a sobering and depressing realization, but one that we need to embrace In some sense, the fleeting nature of our work should embolden us to finish the project, make our claims, and move on. There are other scholars who are waiting.

Here’s my start:

The conclusion to this second volume from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project is also the conclusion to the first phase of fieldwork at the site. Our conclusion to the first PKAP volume offered a historical overview of the site grounded in the distributions and assemblages produced by our survey. This evidence allowed us to make a series of historical arguments concerning the relationship between town and territory, the organization of settlement in the region, the religious landscape of our survey area, and its connections with other sites on the island and in the wider Eastern Mediterranean. While we feel that the results of our excavations largely confirm and reinforce the results of the survey, we will not rehash those conclusions here.  

Instead, this section will emphasize three distinct conclusions from our excavation. First, it will offer some methodological notes on the relationship between our survey assemblages and our excavation assemblages. This will contribute to our second conclusion which will emphasize how attention to the site formation processes revealed through excavation allowed for more nuanced interpretation of change both at the end of antiquity and at the end of the Iron Age. In particular, we will complicate the notion of abandonment in the region. Finally, our conclusion will return to issues of regional variation on Cyprus and in the Eastern Mediterranean to consider how Koutsopetra and Vigla fit into wider patterns of settlement, architecture, and a change. 

Since the excavations at Vigla and Koutsopetria involved features and assemblages of different periods, there will be some variation in how the following sections addresses the themes of this conclusion. 

Koutsopetria 

The two distinct excavation campaigns at Koutsopetria produced two distinct sets of excavation data. Reconciling the two systems of excavation and their corresponding datasets parallels the growing interest in legacy data among archaeologists seeking both to publish from earlier excavations and to use data from earlier excavations to support contemporary research questions. Our work at Koutsopetria demonstrated that even in the absence of stratigraphic controls, the results of the 1990s excavation contributed to how we understood the result from our campaign in 2008. Careful study of the plaster windows, for example, revealed that they were covered over at some point in the room’s history. The similarity between the plaster covering the windows and the plaster used on roof fragments suggests that the building’s roof saw repairs at the same time. The presence of a plate and a coin on the floor likewise established a terminus post quem for the collapse of the room and the second storey. The small assemblage of Dhiorios cooking pots found to the north of the room and covered with collapse likewise allows us to establish a late-7th or even early-8th century date for activity around the building even without the kind of tight stratigraphic controls common to contemporary excavation practices. 

Our 2008 excavations reinforced many of the results from the 1990s excavations. The 2008 excavation campaigns revealed at least two phases of consolidation at Koutsopetria and one of these likely coincided with the covering of the windows. A second phase of consolidation probably predated the abandonment of the building and perhaps stabilized the room enough to allow for the stripping of gypsum floor tiles. The salvage work may have coincided with the loss of a coin or even the presence of an imported plate on the floor. The small group of Dhiorios cooking pot rims on to the north of the room may have marked the location of a small cooking fire, sheltered from the winds coming off the sea. Megaw made a similar argument for the presence of a similar assemblage of cooking pots at the Episcopal Basilica at Kourion which date to later than the building’s collapse.

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