The History of the Church at Koutsopetria

I have focused the last couple of weeks on finishing up a the first draft of our report on excavations at Koutsopetria on CyprusI posted something on the architecture of the Early Christian basilica excavated at the site last week. This week, I figured I might post something on the history of the building from an archaeological perspective. Next week, as an optimistic preview, I’ll have completed something on the artifacts.

The history below is unfortunately short on absolute dates and some nuance, but I think there is enough evidence to support our argument that the building endured a series of interventions over its relatively short life.

Here’s a plan of the remains set against a 5 m grid:

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Here’s a brief history of the building:

Unpacking the history of this site remains challenging as it involves integrating two different excavation methods over three campaigns of excavation. Nevertheless, the work at this site does provide a useful insight into the complex history of Late Antique ecclesiastical architecture on the island and cautions us against arguments that view the architectural history of the island as punctuated by catastrophic events rather than developing over the course of a number of small-scale interventions that combine to constitute the life of a building.

Room 1 and environs appears to have been constructed at some point after the final quarter of the 5th century based on the highly disturbed fills beneath the packed earth floor in Phase 1 in EU13. The fill levels present in EU13 reveal the long history of the occupation at Koutsopetria with artifacts from Cypro-Classical period to Late Antiquity. The flecks of Roman period wall painting associated with the Phase 1 floor in EU12 indicate that the Roman period occupation of the site involved fine quality wall painting consistent with domestic spaces. The small sherds of earlier material from the collapse levels of Room 1 likewise preserve a scrappy material record for the occupation of the history of the site during the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods.

The excavation did not produce a conclusive date for the building of Room 1 other than some time later than the last quarter of the 5 th century. This is not inconsistent with the 6 th century date of many Early Christian basilicas on the island, although few of these buildings are dated on the basis of stratigraphy and the distinct arrangement of the central nave of the basilica at Koutsopetria occurs throughout what appear to be 5 th and 6 th century churches on Cyprus. Evidence from the excavations indicate that Room 1 was modified after its initial construction at least once with the walling up of windows, the replastering of the double arch, and repairs to the tops of the walls and the roof. The presence of 7th-century African Red Slip plate near the floor of Room 1, later forms of Cyprus Red Slip and Phocaean Ware, and a coin of Heracleios indicates that the modification took place before the7 th century when the room was presumably abandoned.

Initial publications of the site suggested that it was destroyed by Arab Raids and while it is impossible to rule out that a catastrophic event like an attack caused the room’s final demise, it appears more likely that abandonment of Room 1 took place in stages. Phases 3 and 4 in EU12 and EU13 represent repairs to the basilica. In EU12, a fragment of a small lugged basin found associated with the construction of a spur wall that buttressed the west wall of Room 1 joined with a fragment of the same basin found associated with the tumble of the double arch and buried well beneath the collapse of the room. This would indicate that the basin was either on the floor of Room 1 or from the second story. While the exact circumstances that led to this vessel being deposited in separate contexts are unclear, it indicates the building remained standing at the time when the spur wall was built and the damaged vessel were present on the floor of the room along with artifacts of a mid-7th century date. It is appealing to imagine that this interval allowed for the removal of the gypsum floor paving and the graffito of a ship on the central pillar of the double arch.

A later phase of repair, defined in EU12 as Phase 4 included numerous Late Roman rooftiles of the kind associated with Room 1, although not necessarily from that buildings, as well as Late Roman artifacts including a sherd of 7th c Cypriot Red Slip. This repair phase is perhaps contemporary with the reuse of a still-plastered wall fragment in EU13 in a later wall. While it is possible to construct a loose, relative chronology for these two phases of repair, their absolute date appears to be essentially contemporary with the latest phases of use in Room 1 suggesting that the room encountered a series of interventions over a short period in the 7th century. These modifications served either to repair the structure or to shore it up while marble revetment, floor tiles, roof tiles and other valuable parts of the room were removed for use elsewhere. A similar pattern of salvage seems to have taken place at the church at Kourion after it suffered significant damage in a seismic event (Megaw 2007, 134-135). It is tempting to imagine the fragments of Dhiorios type cooking pot rims found to the north of Room 1 to be the remains of a late-7th or early 8th century salvaging operation set up, like at Kourion, in the atrium of the damaged building.

In Defense of Housing

Peter Marcuse’s and David J. Madden’s In Defense of Housing: The Politics of Crisis (Verso 2016) is a elegant survey of issues facing housing on a global scale. For the authors, the contemporary housing crisis exists in the tension between housing as home and housing as a commodity. Marcuse and Madden juxtapose the multimillion dollar luxury condominiums in New York and London with the need for basic, affordable housing in the same cities. The multimillion dollar apartments, however, were rarely occupied whereas the basic and affordable housing are a key factor in social cohesion, personal dignity, and the health of individuals and communities. The problem is that both affordable housing and luxury condominiums represent commodities, investments, and figments of complex, global financial arrangements that belie their material presence and the central role that basic housing plays in the lives of billions of people. This book argues that for our society to restore a human character to housing and to protect it as a basic right for all people, the state (on a global scale!) must transform and undermine the system of commodifying and financializing housing. The push might come from tenant and housing activists, but the change must come from the top. 

My interest in housing emerged over the last five years of working on the archaeology of workforce housing in the Bakken oil patch in western North Dakota. Among better known issues that emerged during the Bakken Oil Boom was a housing crisis that was mitigated in part by a range of temporary workforce housing sites collectively called “man camps.” In keeping with Madden and Marcuse, these housing sites followed the flow of global capital into the region and distant landlords and eventually developers seeded the landscape with a range of housing options from tidy, new subdivisions to informal settlements filled with RVs and dusty roads. During the boom, the primary concern was housing the influx of workers, but as the boom has turned to bust, housing has become a financial concern for communities who have massive inventories of newly built apartments and homes and abandoned workforce housing sites whose investors have pulled their capital for greener pastures or been left with properties that will not generate income or appreciate.

While the Bakken boom and bust has made obvious the financial systems that fuel both extractive industries and the global housing market, it has also made visible the complex attitudes of individuals involved in most ephemeral aspects of the global housing market. The temporary workforce that supported the oil industry in the Bakken had distinct attitudes toward “home” that ranged from an affection for mobile RV to a nostalgia for distant (and often past) stability of farms, suburban neighborhoods, or rural communities. These individuals constantly made financial calculations that allowed them to negotiate the tension between home and the placelessness of the global market. The maintenance of a garden at an RV made a temporary vehicle into a home. Practices like “hot sheeting,” squatting, and corporate housing by global logistics companies allowed workers to separate where they lived from a sentimental concept of home. These strategies subverted and renegotiated the ways in which the fiscal realities of a commodified housing market on the ground and offered examples of resistance more subtle (and perhaps less idealistic) than the kind of tenant activism celebrated in Marcuse’s and Madden’s work.

Early Christian Cyprus: An Outline

I was pretty pleased to be asked to co-author a chapter on Early Christian Cyprus for the Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Archaeology. Since I’ll be co-authoring it with the incomparable (and the intensely busy) Jody Gordon, I offered to get things rolling by putting together an outline.

The goal of our chapter is both to present a basic guide to Christian archaeology on Cyprus, as well as to put Early Christian archaeology on the island in the context of larger issues both in modern Cypriot political culture and the historiography of Roman, Late Antique, and Early Byzantine Cyprus.

This is just a draft, and nothing is cast in stone, but I thought I would throw it out there to see what people think…

The Archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus

  1. Early Christianity in a Cypriot Context (<1000)

    1. Pre-Archaeology of Cypriot Christianity

      1. Barnabas (late-6th c.)

      2. The Phaneromene

    2. Archaeological Context

      1. Megaw – typology

      2. Cypriot Archaeologists – often salvage and primarily focused on architecture.

      3. Recent Work: Kopetra, Polis, Maroni, Pyla-Koutsopetria.

    3. Contemporary Political Context

  2. Textual Christianity on Cyprus: Short and Sweet (<1000 words.)

    1. Acts of the Apostles

    2. Epiphanios

    3. Council of Ephesus (431)

    4. Hagiography

      1. Jerome, Vita Hilarionis (4th c.)

      2. Auxibios (5th? c.) (I don’t remember; but local).

      3. John the Almsgiver (Sophronios) and Tykhonas (6th c.)

  3. Christian Archaeology on Cyprus (<4000). This would be the nuts and bolts section of the essay. It would lay out the evidence for Christianity on the island and the basic archaeological problems (dating, excavation approaches, publishing, et c.).

    1. Basilicas (1200 words)

    2. Baptistries (800 words)

    3. Epigraphy (600 words)

    4. Objects

      1. Mosaics

      2. Lamps

      3. Fineware

      4. Seals?

  4. Contexts and Consequences (1200)

    1. Christianization

    2. Connectivity – trade, pilgrimage, and travel

    3. Settlement – towns, cities, capitals, and bishops.

  5. The End of Early Christian Cyprus (800)

    1. Plagues

    2. Wars

    3. Transformation

Traveling through Non-Place?

I’m sitting in the Larnaka International Airport reflecting on the Marc Augé’s idea that airports are quintessential examples on hyper modern non-places. Indistinguishable from one another and catering to displaced travelers, airports both ameliorate and exacerbate the sense of placelessness by being both familiar and non-local at the same time. As airports have become increasingly operated by multinational corporations and beholden to international security standards, they have only become more homogeneous in the 21st century.

At least that’s a simplified version of his argument brought up to date by some recent observations.

 

On the ride to the airport, though, my colleagues Brandon Olson and Dallas Deforest reminisced about old airports and their distinct character: the old Athens airport with its “flippy” list of arrivals and departures, the old Larnaka airport where you disembarked onto the tarmac with its distinct smell of the sea and jet fuel, and the chaotic nature of regional airports in Turkey. Maybe the de-placing of airports is a more recent phenomenon for many places in the world than Augéhas recognized.

Of course the airport in Cyprus has the added complication of being a product of the conflict that has seen the northern part of the island being governed by an unrecognized state. Prior to the invasion of 1974, the airport for the island was in Nicosia. It now stands in the UN controlled demilitarized zone. Few places on earth more poignantly reflect the character of late modern political space than these extranational zones which linger at the margins of formal political jurisdictions. At the same time, the old Nicosia airport has become a very local symbol of the island’s complicated last. It is simultaneously non-place and an highly nuanced political symbol.

I think my flight is starting to board now, but I wanted to write down a few thoughts (on my iPhone no less) while they were fresh in my mind. My next post will be from Greece!

Thessaloniki

It’s been seven years since I’ve been Thessaloniki. For a Byzantinist, and one interested in ecclesiastical architecture, this is a problem. It was also a problem that my wife had not been to Thessaloniki ever. So this past week, we made our way to Thessaloniki for a couple of days of site-seeing at a vacation pace. (Here are some photos from my last visit.)

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While some of my friends are doing the movement’s work by documenting 19th century mountain villages (.pdf), Susie and I were nourishing our urban spirituality by traipsing around Thessaloniki getting pretty churches to pose seductively.

First, Ay. Sophia. When you think of inscriptions in mosaic on the dome of an 8th century Byzantine church you have to rock the KJV:

“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” 

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It’s hard to get a day going without a basilica. The Acheiropoietos church, probably late-5th or early 6th century:

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Domes on cylinders on cubes at the 14th century church of Profitis Elias:

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Our host at Ay. Dimitrios, with all his pre-iconoclastic serenity:

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Ay. Panteleiomon rises from the busy streets:

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Some mosaics from the Rotunda of St. George:

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Tombstone from the once vibrant Jewish community in the city appear in the stone piles around the Rotunda to remind us of the city’s difficult and tragic past:

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Some art deco for Richard Rothaus (and an example of some of the remarkable street art in Thessaloniki):

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Finally, one of my favorite monuments, the church of Ay. Apostoloi:

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We departed the city having – for the moment at least – our fill of urban bustle and retired to more idyllic environs… More soon!

(For the hard working guys over carrying on my research at the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project and the Polis-Chrysochous Medieval Project, go and read Scott Moore’s amusing and delightful blog. He and Brandon Olson are working to look over once more the material from the South Basilica at Polis in support of manuscript that Scott, Amy Papalexandrou, and I have prepared for submission this fall. They then head over to Larnaka to spend some quality time with the big Hellenistic deposit from that site that is poised to provide a significant contribution to our understanding of Hellenistic ceramic assemblages from the island. )

Sixth Annual Cyprus Research Fund Lecture: Dr. Sarah Lepinski on the Archaeologies of Décor

It is really exciting to announce (finally) Dr. Sarah Lepinski as the 6th Annual Cyprus Research Fund Lecture. As readers of this blog know, she is one of my oldest friends and most steadfast collaborators. We have worked together in Cyprus and I am sure that she kept me from making many grievous mistakes of archaeological process and interpretation. I have also admired her work in the Corinthia from the other side of the village. 

Her talk is titled the Archaeologies of Décor: Interiors in the Roman East and it will (in her words): “will explore the artistic techniques, materials, and iconographies in the paintings and show how these paintings reflected both long-standing artistic traditions in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as extensive commercial, cultural, and intellectual exchange with other centers throughout the Roman world.”

With new examples of Roman period wall painting coming to light around Corinth almost monthly, this talk is both topical and interesting. So mark January 23, 2014 (probably at 4 pm) on your calendar. I’ll have the location on campus and online sorted out soon!

CyprusResearchFund2014 pdf

Re-imagining the Basilica at E.F2 at Polis-Chrysochous

Tomorrow I head off to the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. You can check out the full program here (.pdf).

Our panel is at 8:20 AM on Friday morning:

5C City of Gold: Archaeological excavations at Polis Chrysochous, Cyprus

Theme: This session details the exhibition, City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus (Princeton University Art Museum, October 20, 2012–January 20, 2013), about the cities of Marion and Arsinoe that underlie modern-day Polis Chrysochous, and some of the research developed during the period leading up to the exhibition.

CHAIR: Joanna S. Smith (Princeton University), Presiding

8:20 Daniel Kershaw (The Metropolitan Museum of Art),
“Design Process and Evolution for the Exhibition, City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus, in the Princeton University Art Museum from October 20, 2012–January 20, 2013” (20 min.)

8:45 Nikitas Tampakis (Princeton University),
“Digitally Reviving the Buildings of Marion for Museum Display” (20 min.)

9:10 William A. P. Childs (Princeton University),
“Cypriot Aesthetics” (20 min.)

9:35
R. Scott Moore (Indiana University of Pennsylvania),
Brandon R. Olson (Boston University)
Tina Najbjerg (Independent Scholar),
“Chasing Arsinoe: A Reassessment of the Hellenistic Period” (20 min.)

10:00
William Caraher (University of North Dakota, Grand Forks)
Amy Papalexandrou (The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey),
“Re-imagining the Basilica at E.F2 at Polis Chrysochous” (20 min.)

Of course, I know my dear readers expect a sneak preview of our paper. Our paper is essentially a slightly tweaked and truncated version of the Polis section of my paper delivered at the University of Texas earlier in the fall. (If you must, you can compare it here.) This paper reflects four seasons of tireless work by some very dedicated collaborators (R. Scott Moore, Brandon Olson, and, of course, Amy Papalexandrou) and the enthusiastic support of the project director Joanna Smith and her predecessor Willie Childs. The ideas in this paper are heading toward a 10,000-12,000 word report for publication that summarizes four seasons of work at the South Basilica. Each iteration involves sharpening our ideas just a little bit.

Enjoy:

A Review of Metaponto 4

This past month, I spent some time reading and reviewing Eremina Lapadula’s The Chora of Metaponto 4: The Late Roman Farmhouse at San Biagio. I’ve blogged about it already, but now I have a rough draft of the review ready for your consideration.

I’ve been thinking a good bit about how I write book reviews lately. I tell my students that there are three kinds of reviews with three kinds of theses, and the best reviews explain how a book works rather than what a book says.

1. This book is good because…
2. This is book is good, but…
3. This is not a good book because… 

In practice, however, I’ve found it more difficult to pull this off. The review below is probably my least successful effort. On the one hand, it’s reasonably thorough and critical. On the other hand, it is entirely unremarkable.

(On the third hand, it is also more or less done and off my plate before my summer work commences…)

Monmouth, Illinois

Today your esteemed (or not esteemed) blogger is coming to you from the lovely library at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. I’m giving a talk tonight for the campus’s archaeology day.

MCLibrary

Because of the vagaries of travel in the antipodes, I am in town for the entire day rather than my usual surgical strikes. This gave me some time to wander around town looking for a coffee shop with the internets. This does not seem to exist in Western Illinois, but I did get a delicious breakfast (and, yes, I do know the golden rule of social and new media: no one cares what you had for breakfast…). 

Breakfast

But the town was gorgeous despite the low grey skies. Some really nice victorian domestic architecture:

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Some nice examples of turn of the century, small-town monumentality.

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Some commercial and public buildings that are nice, if showing some signs of wear and tear.

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Some urban art.

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Trailers, Florida, and Spring Break

Since this is the first day of our Spring Break, it seems appropriate to talk about Florida. Last week, Kostis Kourelis nudged the North Dakota Man Camp Project Team to check out the slim volume titled Walker Evans: Florida produced after the Getty exhibited some of Walker Evan‘s photographs from Florida.

This 1941 photograph appeared on the cover.

NewImageFrom the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

The trailer is a lovely 1940s “toaster type” (as Evans called it) travel trailer. There are still a few example of these in the man camps of North Dakota (the trailer below apparently dates to the mid-1950s).

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More interesting, however, is that the trailer in Evans photographs features a lovely walkway made of shipping pallets. As several observers have noted, shipping pallets are crucial to the global economy as much because of their initial intended use as for their dynamic afterlife. While I had known that pallets had existed from the first part of the 20th century (in fact, their boom began in the late 1930s and coincided with the introduction of the gas-powered forklift), I had assumed that the almost ubiquitous character of these pallets was a product of late 20th century and the rapid expansion of the so-called “World Economy”.

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Apparently, as soon as pallets became widely available, they began to see use as architectural elements. The pallet walkway is a ubiquitous feature in the Type 2 man camp in the Bakken area. We associated the presence of pallets in the man camps with the rapid intensifying integration of Western North Dakota with the global economy. The movement of equipment, specialized supplies, food, and other goods necessary to support the increase in activity and man power in the Bakken must have made many more pallets available for secondary use. The presence of pallets at a 1941 trailer park in Florida may reflect the increase in rail traffic to this area as it became a desirable seasonal resort.

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They aren’t just common at man camps or trailer and R.V. parks, of course. They also find their way into suburban basements.

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