An Introduction to the Archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus

Hot off the word processor, here’s my first stab at writing an introduction to an article-length survey of Early Christian archaeology on the island.

The Early Christian period on Cyprus extends from the first century A.D. to the 7th-century or even later. In contrast to other periodization schemes which emphasize the island’s political relationship to either the Roman state and its attendant economic networks, or the Byzantine commonwealth and its political entanglements in the region, the Early Christian period on Cyprus reinforces a period of religious and cultural continuity that extends from the antiquity to the modern period. As a result, the focus of a distinctly Early Christian archaeology on the island favors issues of continuity with the politically tumultuous 7th-10th century on the island and the formation of a distinct political identity for Orthodox Christian Greek Cypriots in the Ottoman and modern eras. The political implications of religious component of Greek Cypriot identity has taken on a political cast since political independence and the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of the island. This has led to the suspension of work at important Christian centers like Soloi and Salamis-Constantia and a focus on the urban sites along the southern coast of the island. The Christian communities in these urban centers produced monumental Christian architecture by the start of the 6th century. In the last few decades, intensive pedestrian survey and the expanding development on the island has shed light on Christian communities in rural, ex-urban, and sub-urban sites which also saw monumental Christian architecture during this period. As a result, it is possible to discuss the emergence of a distinctly Cypriot Christian culture on a regional scale.

According to Acts of the Apostles, Barnabas was a Cypriot Jew who became one of the Apostles. He accompanied Paul in his travels to various meetings of Christians in Antioch and Jerusalem and to newly founded Christian communities in Asia Minor. Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of the Cyprus, invited Paul and Barnabas to the island to challenge the teachings of the “magician and false prophet” Bar-Jesus. Later Acts tell of Barnabas and Paul having a falling out and Barnabas and John Mark traveling to Cyprus where according to the apocryphal Acts of Barnabas, he was martyred in Salamis. The travels of Paul and Barnabas to and from the island underscored the close connections between Cyprus and the Aegean Sea, Anatolia, and the Levant.

The 6th-century Laudatio Barnabas may well mark the earliest instance of Christian archaeology on Cyprus. Anthemios, the late-5th-century bishop of Salamis on the west coast of Cyprus, has a series of dreams which led him to grave of St. Barnabas. When he excavated the body, he discovered it clutching the Gospel of St. Matthew.  The discovery of St. Barnabas’s body on the island wth the authoritative (and liturgically significant) Gospel book in his hands reinforced the autocephalous character of the Cyprus church which the Council of Ephesus (431) established. The Apostolic origins of the Cypriot church set it apart from the acquisitive and heretical position of the church in Antioch especially, and, if we are to trust the late 5th-century setting of the Laudatio Barnabas, it may well point to the tumultuous reign of Peter the Fuller as a suitable occasion to excavate additional evidence for the autocephaly of the Cypriot church.

The excavation of holy personages, real or imagined, has continued to play a role in grounding communities in their Christian past across the island. The church of St. Lazarus in Larnaka, for example, marks the place where Lazarus, friend of Jesus’s body was discovered in the 9th century. The association of Lazarus with the See of Kition established a kind of Apostolic authority for the city even after the body was translated to Constantinople by the Emperor Leo VI. Later travelers observed that Cypriots sometimes prayed at caves containing the bones of pygmy hippopotami thinking them to be saints. In the 20th century Peter Megaw, the first director of the island’s Department of Antiquities, tells of villagers excavating around the floors and foundations of the church of the Panayia Skyra to appease the Panayia during a period of draught. A later director of the department of antiquities, Vassos Karageorghis told of the priest from the village of Astromeritis on Morphou Bay who visited him asking that he help the community find the bones of the 1st-century St. Auxibios who he reckoned was buried nearby. St. Auxibius was the first bishop of Soloi and University of Montreal excavated a basilica-style church probably dedicated to this early, holy bishop.

While excavation of Christian sites on Cyprus has its roots in the Early Christian era, it has continued into the era of more scientific excavation by disciplinary archaeologists. A predictable interest in the Christian past of the island characterized Peter Megaw’s term as the island’s first director of the Department of Antiquities (1945-1960) which began with his study of barrel-vaulted basilicas on the island and continued into the 21st century with the posthumous publication of the great ecclesiastical complex at Kourion (Megaw 2007). Like so much of the subsequent architectural and archaeological work on the island, Megaw sought to locate Cyprus within larger Mediterranean patterns of building style, decoration, and influence. His important 1974 article “Byzantine Architecture and Decoration in Cyprus: Metropolitan or Provincial” remained a touchstone for a generation of scholars who looked toward architectural typology a evidence for chronological and interregional continuity. Andreas Papageorgiou work to excavate and catalogue the archaeology and, above all, the architecture of Cyprus during the 1960s provided the foundation for later works exploring the Constantinopolitan and “foreign” influence on Early Christian architecture on Cyprus (Papageorgiou 1986).The long-standing interest in the development of Cyprus architecture has persisted into more recent work by Charles Stewart and Richard Maguire’s substantial, synthetic 2012 dissertation on Late Antique church architecture on the island which emphasized Cyprus’s insularity.

The long-standing interest in the typology of church architecture has shaped the character of their excavation and publication. An emphasis on architecture phases in the careful publication of the basilica at Soloi (Tinh 1985), the episcopal complex at Kourion, or the Campanopetra basilica at Salamis (Roux 1998) has followed the interest in typology in architecture. A group of recent publications, however, has expanded the context of Christian basilica churches on the island. The excavations of Marcus Rautman at Kalavassos-Kopetra (Rautman 2003), of pre-historian at Maroni-Petrera (Manning 2002) and the Princeton Cyprus Expedition at Polis-Chrysochous, have published significant assemblages of pottery, small finds, and, at Kopetra and Polis, human burials. At Kopetra, Polis-Chrysochous, and sites like Pyla-Koutsopetria, there is a growing understanding of the structure, organization, and material culture of local settlement, particularly below the level major urban centers on the island. An expanding appreciation of imported ceramic fine wares, for example, has provided insight into the economic and social networks that both shaped the taste of Christian communities on Cyprus and also connected them regional and transregional networks. Scholars have looked to understand the role of the church in the trade of Cypriot agricultural produce and the transshipment of grain from Egypt and other Eastern Mediterranean commodities. Local artistic traditions, including several examples of pre-iconoclastic figural decoration in both mosaic decoration and fresco, as well as work in under appreciated media like molded gypsum reinforce the distinct status of Cyprus as crossroads of a wide range of economic, social, religious, and cultural currents. The Early Christian archaeology of Cyprus offers significant opportunities to consider how its insular character filtered external influences and provided access to regional communities in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Finally, the archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus is inseparable from the political history of the island. An Early Christian archaeology must recognize that Christianity remains an important element of Greek Cypriot political and cultural identity, and this identity, incubated during the centuries of Ottoman control over the island, has shaped the trajectory research for over a generation. While in some ways, this work has been a boon for scholars of the Early Christian period, it is nevertheless shaped by and infused with the political baggage of the 1974 invasion and the occupied state of the northern part of the island. There is no doubt that the Early Christian period represents the start of nearly two millennia of Christian influence on the island, but this should not overdetermine the historical trajectory of communities on the island. This brief survey of the archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus demonstrates how the material manifestations of Christianity reflected a diverse, fluid, and dynamic local identity that belied the insular geography of the island.

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

Seventh Cyprus Research Fund Lecture

The Cyprus Research Fund Nominating and Special Events Committee is very pleased to announce this 2016 Cyprus Research Fund Lecturer, Prof. Erin Walcek Averett from Creighton University.

Like the previous seven (!) Cyprus Research Fund Lecturers, on March 3rd a 3 pm, she will be giving a public lecture in the exotic East Asia Room of the Mighty Chester Fritz Library. She is an Associate Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts at Creighton and the Assistant Director of the Athienou Archaeological Project on Cyprus. The folks at Athienou helped us get our little project started at Pyla-Koutsopetria many years ago. So it’s particularly nice to have one of their people come to Grand Forks to present on Cypriot material. With any 

The title of her lecture is “Frightening the Frightful: Grotesque Visages from Ancient Cyprus.”

Here’s her full abstract:

“The image of fright set to frighten the frightful,” was Jane Harrison’s memorable evocation of the apotropaic power of masks and “ugly faces” (gorgons, satyrs, etc.) as part of what she called an “apparatus of a religion of terror among the Greeks.” While Harrison’ views on Greek religion have been challenged over the past century, few studies have tackled the complex role of the grotesque, the monstrous, and the strange in Mediterranean religion and society. This talk investigates monstrous, apotropaic imagery in Iron Age Cyprus. Such demonic images are a common part of the island’s material culture, from sculpted figures and masks found in sanctuaries to furniture appliques and amulets associated with funerary and domestic contexts. The iconography attracts the viewer’s gaze and highlights the grotesque and uncanny through disembodied heads or faces (masks), distorted or exaggerated features, gaping mouths with extended tongues and prominent teeth, or theriomorphic traits. Grotesque visages and monstrous figures have been found in wealthy tombs and palaces and on jewelry and monumental sarcophagi, but also in industrial workshops, sanctuaries, and on furniture, household items, and religious paraphernalia. Thus, the efficacy of their apotropaic power was not reserved (or restricted) to an elite, ruling class, but also protected artisans, worshippers, and even children. By casting these images within the realm of otherworldly, they break the monotony of human and animal subjects and become visually distinct and powerful protective objects.

Here’s a cool flyer.

Cyprus Research Fund 2016 Poster 01

Here’s a pdf: Cyprus Research Fund 2016 Poster.pdf

As per usual, Prof. Averett will give a more technical (and informal) talk at lunch on Friday March 4th. Once we have material for that talk and a title. It’ll likely be something cool and digital. So stay tuned!

Atlanta and ASOR 2015

I had a great week attending the 2015 American Schools of Oriental Research conference in Atlanta. The panels that I managed to attend were interesting and crowded, the committees to which I was obliged were productive, and impromptu meetings with friends, colleagues, and strangers were fun and useful.

I even learned some things. So in the interest in bringing order to a complicated few days, here’s a little list summarizing my encounter with the 2015 ASOR meeting: 

1. Bathrooms. I don’t, generally, spend much time reflecting on bathroom design, but at a conference fueled by coffee and endless pitchers of water in every room, regular visits to the bathroom punctuated my day at steady intervals. The men’s room that I visited most regularly had a small vestibule (around 3 m in length) between the door to the hallway and the door to the bathroom proper. Through this second door was a doglegged passage of 7-8 m in length featuring a bank of four or five sinks. The standard bathroom fixtures were set further into the bathroom around a partition wall.

This arrangement may sound typical, but it means that a visitor to the facilities moves through about 10 m of passage between entering the space from the external hallway and encountering the most important features of the bathroom. This space was genuinely liminal for the visitor and preyed directly upon our common, human anxieties associated with moving from the public space of the hallway to the gender-defined space of the bathroom. Is this really the men’s room? Am I in the wrong place? 10 meters is a significant distance to travel “betwixt and between,” and made every trip to the facilities involve some design-induced angst.

2. Nice Cars and Traffic. This was my first time in Atlanta outside of an unplanned night in an airport hotel after some botched travel arrangements a few years back. A few friends with Georgia roots tried to explain to me the urban landscape of the city which seemed to me to be an East Coast version of West Coast urban sprawl and truly a fitting anchor for Gibson’s Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis

The one thing that Atlanta is famous for is traffic (and streets named Peachtree). I was enchanted (see below) by the bustling traffic of Atlanta’s byways and trip to from Buckhead to the Cabbagetown neighborhood for dinner took us on vibrant and traffic-filled highways through Downtown and Midtown.

IMG 4085

The spectacular array of exotic and imported cars on the roads of Buckhead and on Atlanta’s highways reminded me that I truly live in “Pontiac and Plymouth Country (TM)” and created a moving montage of social and economic display. While eating lunch at a little burger place, I watched no fewer than three Bentleys roll by and was shocked to realize that Mercedes only sells S-Class cars to Atlanta residents.

3. ASOR and CAARI and The Digital. There were sustained and productive conversations about “The Digital” both on the ASOR committee on publications and at the board of trustees meeting of CAARI (the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute). The former is embracing the need to at least experiment with open-access digital publishing and linked data and the latter is starting to think more critically about its web site as more than just a billboard for the institutes existence. I’m increasingly optimistic that Pyla-Koutsopetria I: Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coastal Town will appear next year as a digital, fully linked, revised edition and Pyla-Koutsopetria II: Excavations at an Ancient Coastal Town will be born as a linked digital book in 2017. 

As for CAARI, there’s much work to do, but we’ve made some progress. Moving the CAARI site from a hand-coded page to a WordPress template would make updating the site easier and facilitate links with social media. The conversations at the trustees meeting also suggested that people are increasingly interested in using the website for… something. It may be that the website emerges as a place to solicit contributions or to market scholarship opportunities or even to publish old photographs of Cyprus. It’s clear that the board is not quite sure how to align the web with CAARI’s broader mission.

As I sat there listening to the conversation (and the many generational protests), I started to think that CAARI could use the web to disseminate scholarship perhaps in conjunction with the re-opening of the expanded library. A digital occasional paper series modeled on the ISAW Papers series might anchor the CAARI web presence in a familiar medium – scholarly publication, celebrate the benefit of the new library by linking CAARI with academic production, and provide a new outlet for publications on Cyprus now that the Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus is on sabbatical.

The key thing, to my mind, is to revamp the website with a strategy (and goals) in mind. We have work to do!

4. Slow Archaeology. I was thrilled to hear the term “slow archaeology” appear in several papers at ASOR and even more thrilled to realize that some of these mentions were not directed at my work but indicative of parallel work with the same ideas. Eric Kansa’s work on “slow data” distinguishes the deliberate and careful work of publishing, linking, and using published archaeological data from the compliance based “data dump” and suggests that a “slow” approach to data publishing will both yield far more important results and require a change in attitudes among archaeologists, institutions, and funding agencies.

Independent of my work, Ömür Harmansah has explored the intersection of archaeology and development, neoliberalism, and the modern academy to suggest that, today, almost all archaeology is salvage archaeology pushed by an array of pressures inherent to late capitalism. As an antidote to this trend, he has proposed approaches that embrace an intentional engagement with complex landscapes including a kind of “slow survey” that attempts to resist practices associated with the commodification of archaeological space, objects, and heritage in the name of documentation.

I’m exited to explore more of his ideas with him and think there is real potential for a clearly-defined slow archaeology to offer substantive critique to the discipline.  

5. Objects and Enchantment. I participated in a panel on object biography where folks used the word “enchantment” more than I’ve ever encountered at an academic meeting. The papers were good and generally well-received, although I detected a consistent skepticism that object biography represents a  productive way forward for understanding of the place of objects within the broader archaeological project.

My paper was met with skepticism including a comment that my approach to archaeology (and digital artifacts) would cause children to go running from the discipline whereas the opportunity to handle an excavated object would lead to enchantment. This may be the case, although I suspect children and students these days have a greater willingness to be enchanted by digital objects than our generation does.

Despite that critique, my time at the ASOR annual meeting was enchanting, exhausting, and though provoking. I’m looking forward to next year and following up some of the conversations that I had over the course of the meeting.  

Punk Archaeology in the Media and a Trip to Duluth

Just a short post today as I’m headed to Duluth for the weekend to give a couple of talks at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. 

Here is the info on those talks.

Today, I’m giving an updated version of this talk, which will draw heavily on a soon to be submitted article:

Reconstructing Communities on Cyprus from Broken Pots and Ruined Churches

Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about punk archaeology:

The A B C s of Punk Archaeology Three Examples of Punk Practice in Archaeology

If you still can’t get enough, check out this article on our work in the Bakken on Vice Motherboard. It appeared, briefly, above the fold:

Motherboard Home Motherboard

 

Of course, I’ll be keeping my eye out for a dog with a rabid tooth while I’m there. 

Early Byzantine Pottery from Kenchreai

I was pretty excited to see the most recent publication in the ISAW Papers series: “Preliminary Report on Early Byzantine Pottery from a Building Complex at Kenchreai (Greece)” by Sebastian Heath, Joseph L. Rife, Jorge J. Bravo III, and Gavin Blasdel. First, the ISAW Papers series is an innovative way to publish individual article length papers, with open access licenses, without the overhead and complications of running a conventional journal.

Second, and more importantly, Joe Rife is another guy with strong ties to Isthmian and the Eastern Corinthia, and he fits into my inadvertent theme this week of “people who influenced my early archaeological career through their work in the Eastern Corinthia.” Sebastian Heath is a fellow digital archaeologist, and he and I have some imaginative future projects together currently set to a low simmer, but, more than that, he is a fine ceramicist. So when they teamed up with some other fine archaeologists to produce a preliminary report on an assemblage from a site called the Threpsiades Complex near the harbor of Kenchreai, it was worth some of my time.

Kenchreai (or “Quencher” as my autocorrect insists on calling it) is the eastern port of the city of Corinth and sits on the Saronic gulf. It appears to have fallen out of large-scale use after a series of seismic events in the later 6th or 7th century and today is a small settlement of vacation homes. The site considered in this article was excavated by the Greek archaeological service nearly 40 years ago, and the finds came to the current teams attention when the storerooms at the Isthmia museum were reorganized in 2002-2003. Curiously, at that time, “as much as 25%” of the material was transported to Ancient Corinth and buried there to conserve space. There is a tradition of buried assemblages of Late Roman material in the Corinthia, and it would be very interesting to understand the context and location of this reburial of archaeological finds. (In fact, as I’ve read more and more about the archaeology of the contemporary world, I’m struck by how little archaeology of archaeology there is. Excavating a pottery dump – particularly a big one – would be a fascinating opportunity to understand a wide range of behaviors associated with modern archaeological practices (which are sometimes less well documented than one would like)).

The report documents the first reading of an assemblage of Early Byzantine pottery. The latest fineware at the site, African Red-Slip forms 105 and 99 and the later from of LRC (Phocaean Red-Slip) form 3 and 10, suggest the last phase of the site in the late 6th or early 7th century AD. Like our work at Polis on Cyprus, they don’t necessarily have complete control of the stratigraphy (yet?) so some intermixing of earlier and later material is likely in this preliminary analysis. 

The main focus of their study, however, is amphora and especially the remarkably common Late Roman 2 amphora which appeared at this site in great abundance (over 70% of the total assemblage of amphora). The presence of stoppers and funnels hints that the complex may have served as a transshipment point for goods into these amphora for import or export (or in the words of the authors “storing and pouring”), although the authors stop short of making that argument. In this way, this small site could be similar to our nearly contemporary site of Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus which likewise shared an abundance of a single type of amphora, in our case Late Roman 1, which almost certainly represented the large scale export. 

I was pleased to see some Late Roman 1 amphora in the assemblage as well as some other Eastern Mediterranean types reinforcing the connectedness of this site to larger Mediterranean trading patterns. I always feel bad that there is no Late Roman “D ware” (or the fineware formerly known as Cypriot Red Slip) at these sites, because I regard it as a fine and serviceable fineware that did not see as much circulation outside of the immediate neighborhood of Cyprus as I’d like. Aside for my sentimental feelings toward an obscure Late Roman fineware, this short publication presents enough to contribute meaningfully to the larger conversation about exchange in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

This site complements the recent short publication by Paul Reynolds and Evangelos Pavlidis on an assemblage of amphora and fineware from the “Bishop’s House” at Nikopolis. This site produced a substantial group of nearly complete LR1 and LR2 amphora (which accounted for over 40% of the total amphora at the site) and Samian amphora (which accounted for a third of the amphora at the site). It also featured a significant quantity of late 6th to early 7th century African Red Slip to the exclusion of almost any other kind of fineware. The presence of LR1 amphora indicate that the site had contact with the Eastern Mediterranean despite its western facing orientation, but this did not result in the importation of fineware like the very common Phocaean ware present at Kenchreai. Reynolds and Pavlidis observe that the absence of Phocaean ware and the preponderance of Samian amphora make the assemblage at this site is different from that observed at Butrint (to the north) or Corinth. This suggests the presence of “multilayered” distribution models for fineware and amphora.

The variation between the assemblages present at these sites make them useful points of comparison for the diversity of assemblages present on the island of Cyprus. On Cyprus, sites that are less than 20 km apart can produce very different assemblages of fineware and storage and transport vessels during Late Antiquity. Whether this represents multilayered distribution models offering different degrees of access or simply differences in taste across a region remains an open question. 

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!

Summers are for Ideas

Summertime is a great time for ideas, problem solving, and field work, but it’s not a great time for blogging or any kind of long-form writing. I do keep a little notebook of ideas and keep notes in my phone using the irresistibly twee Vesper application for my iPhone. 

So, I have a few idea, most of which I (subjected?) shared with Scott Moore over the last few days.

1. Polis: City of Work. This summer we’ve been working to understand an industrial area of the site of Polis-Chrysochous. It was an area that probably did not enjoy as much attention as the monumental remains of the city in the recent Polis: City of Gold exhibition and catalogue. This was a shame, because we have a ton of evidence for production both in the area where we’re working – including a ceramic kiln and some evidence for possible glass production, metal working, terra-cotta sculpture, and probably other activities that are not associated with the glamorous life of monumental buildings, well-appointed sanctuaries, and other elite manifestations of ancient urbanism.

2. Wall and Holes. This year, the small team at Polis right now has focused on an area laced with walls and deep trenches. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to associate the trenches with walls and walls with floors and surfaces with fills. The big problem is that many of the excavators struggled to see foundation cuts in the difficult soil. Compounding this (and probably the major reason that foundation cuts went undetected) is the numerous “later” burials in the area and the constant rebuilding and adaptation of the area.

The end result is that we have walls, we have fills, and we have surfaces, and it is very difficult to link any of these together. So we have to find a way to publish the site that recognizes the challenges associated with the excavations and the limits to our knowledge as well as the potential the site and excavation have to contribute to archaeological knowledge on the island.

P1020018

4. Wall atop Walls. One of the coolest things about our corner of the Polis site is that it features walls atop wall over a span of nearly 1000 years. The basic grid plan of the area was probably established by the Hellenistic period and it persisted into Late Antiquity and probably beyond. As a result, the area of our current work has massive evidence for the reuse of architecture throughout. 

While the use of spolia is fairly well studied for monumental architecture like fortification walls and churches, it is not as considered in its most banal and practical form. Our area provides a window into the everyday life of an “ordinary” neighborhood at Polis on Cyprus. The reuse of blocks, the cuts, fills, and reconstructions, and the collapses and debris are all preserved as the fabric of the area’s history. 

3. Zombies and Ceramics. This summer, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working alongside an expert on Roman and Late Roman ceramics and zombies: R. Scott Moore. 

I’ve begun to prepare a treatment for a small-budget film that features Scott Moore as the only man who can save humanity from the onslaught of zombies propagated through contact with Late Roman ceramics. The first zombie, of course, was John Hayes whose work defined the field of ceramics in Late Antiquity. The disease soon spread to a group of scholars desperately trying to understand how to use his volume on the Roman ceramics from the site of Paphos. Others are stricken working their way through his volume on the Roman and Late Roman fine wares from the Agora or material from Saraçhane in Istanbul. Graduate students are particularly susceptible, but the cursed virus slowly begins to take down all the ceramicists in the Mediterranean, then excavators, then site directors, and finally tourists. 

Only Scott Moore remains immune. No one knows why or how, but what is more important is that he is the only person who can read Late Roman pottery without becoming a zombie.

Changing Landscapes of Rural Cyprus

I was pretty interested to read the latest article by the Athienou Archaeological Project team in the most recent issue of Journal of Field Archaeology: Shedding Light on the Cypriot Rural Landscape: Athienou Archaeological Project in the Malloura Valley, Cyprus 2011-2013. The article documents the most recent few years of excavation at the rural sanctuary of Athienou-Mallora which is just to the north of our coastal site of Pyla-Koutsopetria in southeastern Cyprus.

The article focused on the dynamic nature of rural sites and contribute yet more evidence that challenges the view of rural life in the Mediterranean as backward and  somehow less prone to change than life in urban centers. The sanctuary of Athienou-Malloura clearly underwent a number of significant changes over its long history and there was ample evidence for the reuse of even prestigious objects (like monumental and life-size sculpture) in renovations throughout its active history. Of particular interest was the presence of lamps with Christian symbols dating to Late Antiquity along with lamps with less overtly religious symbolism. This hints that the sanctuary might have been the site of some kind of syncretic religious practices at the end of its long life. We still do not know much about the afterlife of “pagan” sanctuaries on Cyprus especially when compared to the considerable scholarly attention paid to the late life of sanctuaries and temples in Greece. 

The article also features a brief report on the resurvey of several sites documented in the Malloura Valley Survey in the early 1990s. Returning to these sites nearly 20 years after their initial survey confirmed once again the dynamic character of the Cypriot countryside. While the results of this work were rather less surprising with mechanized agriculture and modern building practices intensifying the neglect witnessed by abandoned rural structures and sites, it was nevertheless revealing how little remained visible at abandoned mud brick buildings. In one case the entire building had vanished; in another, the mud brick walls had collapsed into the stone soccle at such an accelerated pace that human interference was suspected. 

The only bummer about the article is that I received an offprint from a colleague which was great, but I the offprint does not provide access to the supplementary material which requires a Manley log in to see. While the information on these pages is – presumably – supplementary and not vital to understanding the content of the article, it is nevertheless a bummer that I can’t see it. It is one more example of how we no long own content in a true sense, but simply rent access. As I work with some of the same authors on this article to develop a paper+digital+web edited volume based on papers from the Mobilizing the Past conference held this spring, I’m going to have to think hard about how to ensure persistent access to our supplementary material on the web.http://uwm.edu/mobilizing-the-past/