My stack of articles “to read” is pretty scary these days, but I was really glad to find time to read Michael Given’s 2020 article, “Attending to Place and Time: Seasonality in Early Modern Scotland and Cyprus” from the European Journal of Archaeology 23(3). This article is another in Given’s recent work to apply the concept of conviviality to the archaeology of Cyprus (and now Scotland). To summarize a complicated assemblage of ideas, Given argues that conviviality offers a perspective to unpack the complex series of relationship that dictates how individuals, animals, objects, and materials work together to create historical situations.
In this case, Given argues that by expanding our understanding of the relationship between Cypriots (and Scots!) and their environment, we can avoid overly simplistic views of seasonal movement the countryside. Given demonstrates that the use of land between the rugged slopes of the Troodos Mountains and the coastal plain gave Cypriot farmers and herders opportunities to adapt seasonal movements between upland villages in the summer and lowland fields in the winter depending on specific crops, tools, and the social organization of families and communities. This more expansive view of the relationships that constitute Cypriot life opens the analysis of seasonal movement to more variation and nuance. For example, the appearance of threshing floors around settlements associated with the fields on the plains indicates cereal cultivation and harvesting in the early summer as well as wintering flocks. Whether the same individuals occupied these settlements as different time a year is hard to know, but it demonstrates straight away that simple movements from mountain villages to seasonal settlements on the plain do not account for the range of activities. Given also notes that certain crops, such as vines and fruit and nut trees require regular attention that would not necessarily align with the kind of large scale movement between places in the landscape. The locations for these crops moreover may not align with the mountain-plain dichotomy and instead occupy niche ecologies where these crops can thrive. The location between mountain villages and the plains once again suggest movements that are not strictly seasonal in character, but move fluctuate between various landscapes at various times.
This might not seem deeply profound, but it offers a very practical view on a research site where I worked a few years ago with the Western Argolid Regional Project. The WARP team and I documented a whole group of house at the site of Chelmis in the Inachos valley (and published our results here and here). These houses served several functions, it would appear. First, they clearly served as shelters for shepherds who moved their flocks from their main mountain villages to the plains in the winter even today. Second, the presence of threshing floors indicates that in the summer, these houses sheltered individuals who had come to harvest and thresh grain grown on the terraced fields around the settlement. Finally, at some point, families occupied some of the houses year around. A similar site in the Corinthia, Lakka Skoutara, seems to follow a similar pattern of occupation that goes well beyond any narrow concept of seasonality (you can read about that here).