Ceramics from Koutsopetria

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on getting a preliminary draft completed for our publication of the excavations at Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus. This work involved two campaigns in the 1990s by Maria Hadjicosti and her team and a single season of targeted excavation by a team from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project.

While the last two posts focused on the architecture and then the history of the site, the final part of this will focus on the ceramics. The only problem is that today is probably the last writing day of the great winter writing season, and I am not done writing that section yet.

And to make things more complicated, my partner in crime, David Pettegrew has started work on the introduction to our Oxford Handbook to Early Christian Archaeology. They’re having some kind of faculty write-in this week and he’s working away on that introduction. In solidarity, I’ll spend today writing the final parts of the first draft of our work at Koutsopetria. As a bit of motivation, I’ll post it when I’m done here!

So, stay tuned!

…. uh oh… still not done and it’s after 4 pm… maybe I can have a one day extension on this? 

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:

Scan310 cropped

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.

The Church at Koutsopetria

Over the last few weeks I’ve returned to writing up our excavation results from our project at Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus. This site, for people new to this blog, is in the southeastern corner of the island some 10 km east of the modern Larnaka (or ancient Kition). The site was a coastal town during the Roman and Late Roman periods and featured an Early Christian basilica.

Very little of the church was excavated either during the initial seasons of excavation in the 1990s under the direction of Dr. Maria Hadjicosti or during our brief campaign in 2009. The main focus of this work was a small, if well appointed annex room that probably extended from the south or western wall of the atrium of the church. In 1999, excavations at the site revealed the central apse of the basilica. The apse is wide and relatively shallow and features the transverse passage on its southern side that runs between the south nave colonnade and the western wall of the church.

PKAP2 Hajicosti Excavations scan310 2

This transverse passage is relatively distinctive among churches on Cyprus appearing predominantly among buildings in the neighborhood of Salamis and the Karpas Peninsula. Megaw suggested that the church of Ay. Philon served as a kind of prototype for the buildings in this area, and as you can see in the image borrowed from Richard Maguire’s 2012 dissertation (as are the rest in this blog post), has a similarly shallow and wide apse and transverse passages between the main apse and the two, smaller, lateral apses.

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf page 688 of 827

It may be that the builders of the relatively compact church at Ay. Philon modeled their building on the much larger pilgrimage church of Ay. Epiphanios at Salamis which shared the wide, shallow apse and the transverse passages. Both buildings likely date to the 5th century with the church of Ay. Epiphanios dated through a textual reference and Ay. Philon based on its stylistic affinities.  

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf page 775 of 827

Later buildings in the area, like the Panayia at Aphendrika carry on the tradition into the 6th century (at least according to the conventional date associated wth this building).

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf page 657 of 827

The regional distribution of churches of this type is intriguing. They appear on the Karpas and around Salamis and then across the northern coast of Cyprus including at Lambousa and as far west as Soloi.

MaguireDissertation2012Small pdf page 808 of 827

This corpus of buildings seems to be significantly different from the churches across the more densely-settled southern coast of the island where polygonal apses are more common and the churches lack the transverse passages between the central apse and the flanking spaces.

In our survey monograph, we argue that the site of Kousopetria was situated at an important route of travel through the area. The inland road linking the coast of Larnaka Bay to the city of Salamis joined the coast at our site in both antiquity and the modern period. We argue that the remains of an Iron Age sanctuary at or near our site likely reflected the regions liminal state on the political boundary between Salamis and Kition. The presence of a late Cypro-Classical fortification at Vigla reinforced the  Obviously such political boundaries faded to unimportance during the Hellenistic and Roman period when the island became part of a single imperial state, but it remains possible that these buildings preserve echoes of these borders carved into the landscape through persistent patterns of movement between major urban centers. It may be that the church at Koutsopetria represented the southern most reach of the bishop of Salamis or even just the influence of such significant buildings as the pilgrimage church at Ay. Epiphanios. 

Images from Polis

I’ve been working on the last few figures for an article on our work around the South Basilica at Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus. For various reasons we do not have a digital site plan, so I’ve been building one piece meal from the excellent hand drawn plans made over the past three decades. My goal was to combine the two so that I didn’t have to redraw the entire site map and so I could preserve some element of the original plans while highlighting certain features.

Figure 2

Figure 6

Figure 7

Plans Hesperia2016 Figure9

Plans Hesperia2016 Figure10

ASOR Wrap Up

My apologies for missing a few days on the old blog last week, but I was pretty busy at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to as many panels as I would have liked, but it was a productive meeting none the less.

So here are five things that happened (to me; after all, it’s my blog!) at ASOR:

1. Object Biography. The final workshop in a three year series of panels on object biography was a hoot (or as one of the panel’s organizers said “a bag of worms”), even if my paper was cautiously received. The papers were fun and the conversation was pleasantly edgy. Whatever the utility of object biography, the panels demonstrated an overwhelming desire for some kind of authentic engagement with things. It may be that object biography is flawed because most of us don’t think of objects as having life. At the same time, one wonders whether the recent interest in object agency especially among archaeologists, reflects our experiences struggling with objects that appear to have greater and greater autonomy from our wishes, desires, and intentions. In other words, maybe the idea of an object having a biography – a birth, a youth, an adulthood, and a death – is simply a matter of degrees from the idea that objects are agents. The former, however, seems contrived not because as we expand our notions of agency from individuals to things we are simultaneously diluting the very concept of being alive.

2. Welcoming our new digital overlords. I was amazed by the number of variety of panels on digital tools in archaeology at this year’s ASOR. Maybe it’s been like this for the last few years, but our fascination with the potential of digital archaeology was on full display starting with the plenary address by Sarah Parcak and continuing through many of the posters and papers. I was particularly pleased that the most recent book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future, received a share of the attention. In fact, co-editor Jody Gordon recorded his paper and answered some questions for ASOR and this will likely be posted in the next week or so. I’ll put up a link to his paper and the interviews when they become available. 

3. CAARI has a new director. I am a member of the board of trustee of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute and after almost 7 years of dedicated service, Andrew McCarthy, is stepping down to pursue new adventures. In his place, the CAARI board approved the appointment of Lindy Crewe, a prehistorian who has worked on the island for many years and has a reputation for being a thoughtful scholar and an elite excavator. You can get a sense for her accomplishments on her academia.edu page. It was a good choice and I look forward to her leadership at an institution that has contributed significantly to my work on this island and my career.

4. Digital Publishing and ASOR. As readers of this blog know, I’ve been working with Scott Moore to produce a digital version of Pyla-Koutsopetria I: The Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coastal Town. Since we published our data with Open Context, we produced an unofficial digital edition that allows a reader to move from the text to our published data throughout. We learned at ASOR that we’ve been given approval to release a linked digital copy of the book (as a beta) this spring once we work some bugs out. The goal is to present this beta-draft for some feedback and to prepare a revised digital edition at a later date. 

We also discussed the possibility of preparing PKAP II as a digital release with links throughout to our excavation data in Open Context. There are number of technical and cultural challenges to overcome, but hopefully we can propose a series of steps toward making the Archaeological Report Series a significant outlet for innovative digital archaeological publications.

5. The ASOR Meeting Program. I serve on the ASOR program committee and one of the most interesting conversations in recent years in that committee concerns the number of times people can officially appear in the annual meeting. This year, we decided (and it was a mistake) to only list the first author (or presenter) in the schedule section of the program book and to list coauthors in the abstract section. The reasons for this are complex and involve both aesthetics (and a concern for clutter in the schedule) as well as a concern that some members of ASOR are appearing “too frequently” in the program. Most academic meetings have some kind of policy limiting the number of times someone can appear in the program designed to promote diversity in the program and to ensure that scholars of all ranks can participate. At ASOR we have fiddled with this policy numerous times over the last few years and not quite settled on a universally accepted formula.

To me this is interesting because it considers both the meetings, but more importantly, the academic program as a lens through which we can understand and shape the field. Limiting the number of times someone can appear in the program will promote the the appearance of diversity, but it leaves open the possibility that the program does not actually reflect the work of writing the paper. At the same time, appearances can change reality and making the program appear more diverse might actually change the nature of field.  

An Archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus

Over the last six months or so, Jody Gordon and I have been working on a survey article on the archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus for the Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Archaeology. I think the draft is more or less ready for sharing.

We’ve titled it “The Holy Island: An Archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus” and here’s the abstract:

The archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus represents one of the most significant case studies of how early Christianity developed because of the island’s unique geohistorical background and the diverse nature of its material remains. When combined with local hagiographical resources, Cyprus’ material culture illustrates the gradual development of a unique form of Early Christian society between the fourth and seventh centuries CE that drew on both local and imperial influences. This chapter contributes to such perspectives by offering an introduction to Early Christian Cyprus’ archaeological corpus vis-à-vis the island’s unique Late Antique eastern Mediterranean context. It examines basilicas, baptisteries, mosaics and church décor, funerary structures, coins and seals, metalwork, epigraphy, and ceramics to reveal the discipline’s main research foci and suggests topics for future investigation. 

I’ve uploaded a draft to my academia.edu page here.

It might be fun to read this paper with a unpublished paper that I wrote with R. Scott Moore on the history of settlement in Cyprus in the 7th and 8th centuries. I’ve posted that paper to academia.edu as well.

If I was ambitious and had time and energy, I could imagine these two papers being the start of an archaeological history of Early Christian Cyprus.

Data, Digital Archaeology, and Publishing

To short things this morning related to digital archaeology. 

First, abstracts were due last night for the Society of American Archaeology Annual Meeting next spring, so there was the predictable flurry of activity. I generally don’t do much with the SAA conference, but this year there was some interest in a panel on digital archaeology, I’ll contribute to a paper with Erin Walcek Averett, Derek Counts, and Jody Gordon.

Here’s our abstract: 

“From Trench to Tablet: Field Recording, Interpreting, and Publishing in the Age of Digital Archaeology”

Since the arrival of robust mobile tablet devices in 2010, archaeological documentation has increasingly become born-digital. The adoption of digital tools and practices has not gone unnoticed, with reactions ranging from enthusiastic acceptance to outright skepticism. Significantly, scholars are beginning to offer more critical and reflexive views of the issues surrounding the use of mobile devices in archaeological fieldwork, interpretation, and dissemination. The ability to disseminate digital data directly from connected devices to a global audience threatens to destabilize traditional standards of archaeological documentation practices, which, in part, used media to define the stages of knowledge production: handmade, paper documents defined the provisional character of field documentation, and the printed, bound, publication marked definitive results. Digital media blurs these distinctions by making trench side data indistinguishable from its final form. By drawing on examples from current archaeological publication schemes, this paper will show how new digital tools and techniques can highlight the potential for mobile computing in archaeology, but also demonstrate how these new methods will challenge and transform institutions that shape archaeological knowledge.


On a related note, please check out the recently announced Open Context & Carleton Prize for Archaeological Visualization. Shawn Graham, one of the prizes co-sponsors, posted a snazzy video introduction to the prize. And like any good prize, it has some money behind it!

More importantly (and selfishly!), my survey project on Cyprus, the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeology Project, has data in Open Context that could be used for this prize. While we have been working to connect this data to our published monograph in preparation for a Digital Edition, we’d love to have someone approach the data from another perspective and for an innovative visualization of our data (especially in conjunction with other similar datasets in Open Context) to inform the analysis in our traditional paper book. 

Go check it out!


Movement and Empire in a Connected Mediterranean

I’ve finally found time to check out C. Concannon and L. Mazurka, Across the Corrupting Sea: Post-Braudelian Approaches to the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean. (Ashgate 2016). David Pettegrew and I were lucky enough to have an article in this volume which is joined by some find contributions from archaeologists working around the Mediterranean basin.

I was particularly excited to read Jody Gordon’s article, “To Obey by Land and Sea: Cultural Identity in Hellenistic and Roman Cyprus,” in part because it deals with issues that I’ve played with from time to time, and in part because I knew it to be a summary of some points in his massive dissertation from the University of Cincinnati. Gordon argues that the place of Cyprus in the Mediterranean situated its relations with various imperial states during the Hellenistic and Roman periods and fundamental inflected Cypriot culture. Gordon’s arguments, at their best, are nuanced and recognize that some elements of foreign influence on the island – like the Hellenistic style tombs from Paphos – are more likely to represent intrusions, whereas others – like the adoption of Roman style mosaic floors depicting games – are more likely to be hybrid expressions negotiated over centuries of sustained contact between Cypriots and the wider Roman world. What was particularly clever in Gordon’s piece is that he recognized that the Cypriots used their island status to negotiate its relationship between the various imperial forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. While he could not detail every opportunity for interaction, Gordon’s analysis could be extended both earlier and later than his article. For example, it is clear that Ptolemaic control over Cyprus in the Early Hellenistic period was not simply an expression of Ptolemy’s military and political superiority in the region, but a product of the  wrangling of the late Iron Age kingdoms on Cyprus which allied themselves with various external political powers (and here is clearly echoes of work being done on the contemporary Roman world). Cypriots on a smaller scale presumably negotiated similar understandings through their engagement with Hellenistic and Roman material culture, adopting expressions that served local and regional purposed while ignoring others. The assemblages that these relationships to larger imperial state and networks produced on the island – mitigated by economic, political, religious, and even vague social and cultural factors (taste? memory? internal rivalries between communities?) – created the complex tableaux of sites that constitute our understanding of Cypriot archaeology and history. Like a Foucauldian text, the very idea of Cypriot sites only appears in the relationships with others within the larger discourse of the Hellenistic and Roman world. Good stuff here!

Concannon and Mazurka volume does offer a bit more sweeping views of the Mediterranean. There is a timeliness to their revisiting of Braudel massive Mediterranean and his successors – particular Horden and Purcell’s equally monumental The Corrupting Sea. The notion of the Mediterranean as a place of interaction and in Horden and Purcell’s words, connectivity, is as visible in the contemporary European Union (or in the increasingly transnational economic agents who navigate both the physical and fiscal Mediterranean(s) of the contemporary world) and the current refugee crisis. The movement of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan to the coast of the Mediterranean reflects both the continuities that Braudel and others have described in the region as well as the breakdown of the national borders. In other words, the pre-national Mediterranean of Bruadel and Horden and Purcell does offer lessons and methods for understanding our increasingly post-national world present.

CAARI Monograph Series at the HathiTrust

Yesterday, I began messing around with sprucing up the venerable CAARI (Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute) website. As part of that I thought I’d put together some links to the full and open digital texts of volumes in the CAARI monograph series published by the American Schools of Oriental Research.

A few years ago, the ASOR’s Committee on Publications under the leadership of Chuck Jones took steps to make out of print books published by ASOR open access through the HathiTrust. The most recent volume, Cyprus and the Balance of Empires, edited by Davis, Stewart, and Weyl Carr, is only a couple of years old, so it hasn’t been released yet (see my comments in this fine volume here). Oddly enough, the first volume, Res Maritimae, from 1994, was not picked up in The Googles scanning net, but I bet no one would object to a digitized copy of this book being made available. Maybe someone at CAARI can oblige! 

(As an aside, we hope that my volume with David Pettegrew and Scott Moore, Pyla-Koustopetria I: Archaeological Survey of An Ancient Coastal Town (2015) will be available in a linked, open format sometime quite soon!)

The only bummer about these volumes is that they are released under a CC-By-ND-NC license. This is a non-commercial license meaning that you can’t use these books for any commercial enterprise. Because this kind of license has been read pretty strictly, some (let’s say) benign commercial entities like universities and academic institutions have been reluctant to allow for the use of material released under non-commercial licenses in their classes, for example.

This is a quibble though because the books remain valuable contributions to our understanding of the island and they are now available for individual researchers to use for free. 

No. 1. Stuart Swiny, Robert L. Hohlfelder, and Helena Wylde Swiny (eds.). Res Maritimae: Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean from Prehistory to Late Antiquity, 1994.

No. 2. Stuart Swiny (ed.) The Earliest Prehistory of Cyprus from Colonization to Exploitation, 2001.

No. 3. Diane Bolger and Nancy Serwint (eds.). Engendering Aphrodite: Women and Society in Ancient Cyprus, 2002.

No. 4. Stuart Swiny, George Rapp, and Ellen Herscher (eds.). Sotira Kaminoudhia, An Early Bronze Age Site in Cyprus, 2003.

No. 5. Charles Antony Stewart; Thomas W Davis; Annemarie Weyl Carr (eds.) Cyprus and the Balance of Empires: Art and Archaeology from Justinian I to the Coeur de Lion, 2014.

Job Posting: Director of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute

The Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute has opened their search for a new director. For the past 15 years, CAARI has played an important part in my career as an archaeologist and historian, and the two directors of the institute played no small part in the success of my field project, the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project. Both the current director, Andrew McCarthy, and the previous director, Andrew McCarthy, have helped us extract ourselves from sticky situations in archaeological politics on the island and provided perspective on the complexities of both the Cypriot and the American archaeological community on the island.

Over the past couple of years, they’ve completed construction of an expanded library which will, apparently, house paper books. CAARI has also supported a vibrant community of fellows, regular academic lectures and conferences, and the annual summer archaeological workshop which brings together many of the archaeologists active on the island to present their most recent findings. While I’ve not done too much research in the library nor availed myself to the hostel or other amenities that CAARI provides for scholars, we have sent students to the library there on a regular basis and the library’s collection (including runs of some local and rather obscure journals) is a nice “one stop shop” for focused research on the material culture of the island.

I’m on the CAARI Board of Trustees, but I don’t know much about the job search or what the committee is “really” looking for. The list of responsibilities seem a bit out of sync with the qualifications. They seem to be looking for a building manager, event planner, administrator, and liaison who happens to also be an archaeologist. There is nothing, necessarily, that makes the responsibilities and qualification incompatible, but they seem to want two different things. 

In any event, CAARI is a good and valuable institution, they’re offering an attractive package of salary and benefits; here’s a link to the job announcement. Applications are due September 20th.