Legacy Data, Digital Heritage, and Time

Over the last couple of weeks, I continue to think about the role of legacy data in archaeology. This is for a paper that I’ll give next month at the annual Archaeological Institute of America. I’ve started to work through my ideas here and here.

At first, I imagined that I’d give a fairly routine paper that focused on my work with notebooks at the Princeton Cyprus Expedition at Polis on Cyprus. As readers of this blog know, a small team of us have worked to analyze over 20 years of excavations at Polis and to move the data from a largely analogue, notebook system, to a relational database that we can query. This has not only allowed us to understand the relationship between the excavation, ceramic assemblages, and architecture, but also moved us toward a secondary goal of publishing the data from Polis.

At the same time that I was working on this stuff, I was also continuing to think about time and archaeology and reading some recent works including Marek Tamm and Laurent Olivier’s Rethinking Historical Time: New Approaches to Presentism (2019) as well as some turn of the century works like F. Hartog’s Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time (2015). These works consider the changing nature of time and heritage in archaeology and argue that emergence of the contemporary “heritage industry” particularly after 1989 (and September 2001) demonstrates a changing notion of time in which heritage largely serves the various needs of the present. This contrasts to an earlier regime of time which emphasized the past as evidence for progress into the future. It was interesting that the Tamm and Olivier book includes no sustained discussion of how the changing regimes of time influence the use of digital tools in archaeological practice.

This is all the more striking because the Hartog’s change in the nature of the past maps loosely onto our embrace of digital technology to facilitate to documentation and analysis of archaeological field work. One might argue that older techniques of documentation with their dependence on paper sought to create an archive that was designed as much for the future as for the present. We anticipated more sophisticated ways of analyzing our work and sought to document our practices, methods, and assumptions as carefully as possible. The practice of carefully archiving one’s field notes – typically on site – was fundamental to our notion of responsible excavation.

More recently, digital tools become a key component to documenting field work. Archaeologists have produced what Andy Bevin has called a “digital deluge” of data from our surveys, excavations, and research projects. The need to archive this data has remained significant, but, at the same time, there’s a growing quantity of “legacy data” that past projects have accrued. The concept of legacy data demonstrates an immediate awareness of the division between past data practices (whether digital or not) and contemporary needs. The expanding discourse on data preservation practices, archival format, and “best practices,” “standards” and meta-data traces our anxieties in the face of rapidly changing technologies and protocols. The fear, I’d suggest, is less about the future of our data and more about its present utility. This follows the increasingly blurred line between the archiving of data and its publication. The potential for re-use in the present has shaped much of the conversation about legacy data.

Legacy data, however, is about more than just reuse in the present. In fact, the formats, tools, and technologies that made data collected in the past useful in the past remain a key element to understanding how digital data came to be, how it was encountered, and how it was interpreted. The details about data how a project produced or collected – or the paradata – remain significant, but more than that, the technologies used to produce, store, and analyze data in the past are fundamental to understanding archaeological practice.

Scholars of video games, of course, already know this. Rainford Guins in Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife (2014) for example, has considered the role of the arcade, the video game cabinet, the art present in a video game cartridge, and the design of the video game console as well as its place in the home. For Guins the game code is just part of the video game as a cultural artifact. He documents the challenges associated with preserving vintage arcade games and the balance between allowing the games to be played and the wear and tear of regular use on cabinets, controllers, and increasingly irreplaceable CRT monitors. The impulse to preserve “legacy games,” if you will, allows us to make sense of these objects as complex cultural artifacts rather than simply vessels for digital code.

In an archaeological context, then, legacy data is about more than the code or the digital objects, but also about the range of media, technologies, tools, and practices that made this data possible. Our interest in the utility of digital data risks reducing digital heritage to an evaluation of present utility. If, as Roosevelt et al. famously quipped “Excavation is Destruction Digitization: Advances in Archaeological Practice,” we might also argue that our modern impulse to digitize or adapt legacy data is a destructive practice, “Digitization is Destruction.”

This isn’t to suggest that we stop engaging legacy data as important sources of archaeological information or that we only engage it using 30 year old IBM PC with a SCSY port Zip drive. Instead, I’m suggesting that our approach to legacy data gives us a useful way to reflect on the changing notion of time in archaeological practice and perhaps even speaks to the complicated relationship between archaeology and heritage practices.

Time and Archaeological Legacy Data

With the ASOR annual meeting not even begun, I’m already being gently nudged to think about my paper for the Archaeological Institute of America’s annual meeting in January. Fotini Kondyli and Jon Frey have organized a panel on legacy data in archaeology, and according to the abstract that I wrote a few months ago, my paper will talk about flow and how scrutinizing the concept of flow can help us understand the archaeological argumentation and narrative.

Here’s my abstract

The more that I’ve thought about this paper, the more the first couple of lines in the abstract have stuck with me: “The notion of legacy data is an artifact of contemporary digital archaeology. Archaeologists define legacy data as information that is incommensurate with contemporary digital practices and standards.” 

This got me thinking about how legacy data fits into our notions of archaeological time. It seems to me that archaeologists generally have three notions of time in mind when they do their work. They tend to function in slightly different ways and can accommodate each other n varying ways.  

1. Archaeological Time. This is the basic framework for most archaeology. It assumes that the object of archaeological study is in a different time from that of the archaeologist. It allows us to see a past as “the past” and to think about what we do as “objectively” in the sense that it is fundamentally separate from who we are. The division between our time and archaeological time historically has tended to frame our object of study as part of the not-modern or pre-modern world. It’s not just the past, but a past that is distinct enough from the present to represent something discrete and worth studying through archaeological methods.   

2. Methodological Time. Methodological time represents the modern assumption that archaeologists are constantly improving our methods and practices. As a result, the archaeological knowledge that we have produced in the present is better than the archaeological knowledge that we have produced in the past. The best example of this kind of time is in the name of the SAA’s journal of archaeological methods: Advances in Archaeological Practice. Archaeological science, archaeological methods, and archaeology in general advances to produce a better, clearer, or improved view of the past.

3. Ethical Time. I am still attempting to understand completely what ethical time is an archaeologist. It manifests itself most frequently in debates over the repatriation of artifacts. Archaeologists understand, of course, that returning say a Greek or Egyptian artifact to the modern nation of Greece or Egypt does not under any systematic understanding of the word “repatriate” return an object to the same people or state or even cultural entity that existed in the past. We are not returning an object to ancient Greece and in some case, like the Parthenon Marbles, we’re not not even proposing to return an object to the same political entity from which they were taken. This is particularly complicated for debates over the repatriation of artifacts to say, Lebanon, from Turkish museums. In many cases, these objects became part of these collections when Lebanon or Syria were part of the Ottoman state. The Ottoman state no longer exists. At the same time, the post-Ottoman nations of Lebanon and Syria have claims to their pre-Ottoman past in the service of modern nation building and in the construction of narratives that produce a meaningful past to communities living in those areas.

This is a complicated time to understand as an archaeologist and unlike the more or less linear time of archaeological methodologies or the fragmented time, stratigraphic time of the archaeological past, ethical time in archaeology tends to be recursive, spiraling, and grounded in contemporary commemorative practices that many scholars will argue emerged in the second half of the 20th century as a counterpoint to the dour rationality of historical thinking that so often seems to contravene the work of nation building.

(4. Material Time? One could argue that archaeologists are increasingly coming to recognize material time especially as we have come to address the “material turn” in historical and archaeological thinking. This time reflects the varied ways in which material change and how we understand the persistence of particular material as fundamental to shaping the archaeological record. This is different from archaeological time because it recognizes that objects carry with them a multiplicity of times that allow them to exist both in the past and in the present.) 

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Legacy data itself exists at the intersection of methodological and ethic time in archaeology. On the one hand, much of the conversation concerning legacy data – or publishing the results of past archaeological work – is grounded in the ethical assertion that because archaeology is, in some ways, “destructive,” (or perhaps better, involve “recontextualizing” material) we have an obligation to justify the recontextualization of this material through publication. Unpublished material, even if it remains secure in a storeroom, is no different than looted material in that its context is not made understandable. By publishing our work, we recontextualize material and “restore” it to a particular kind of time. This has nice parallels to the work of archaeologists to repatriate finds and restore these objects to a chronological and political context that benefits (generally speaking) a colonized community’s ability to produce a meaningful historical and commemorative narrative for their own society.    

On the other hand, legacy data presents a problem for archaeologists’ sense of methodological time. Because we have tended to see our discipline as always advancing toward new ways of recovering the past and contributing to the present, legacy data is often seen as flawed or, worse still, obsolete. Our field continues to privilege new projects, especially for the career advancement of early career scholars, at the expense of the long and frequently compromised grind of legacy projects.

My work at Polis is a great example of how legacy projects force us to think in three times at once. On the one hand, the Princeton Cyprus Expedition was probably the last major American excavation in the Mediterranean not to employ a stratigraphic system in excavation. Instead they dug in levels and passes which may or may not have been stratigraphic. They also regularly ignored “last in, first out” and had multiple contexts open at the same time. 

It is possible, of course, to restore some sense of stratigraphic control to the excavation because many of the excavators understood the concepts of formation and depositional processes. Moreover a simple application of the rules of superposition still apply allow us to broadly understand that lower levels are earlier than higher levels whenever we can safely assume some kind of controlled of systematic deposition. With a few basic understandings cobbled from the methods of contemporary archaeological work, we can start to reconstruct the past at the site of Polis. 

Moreover, this offers us an ethical way to recontextualize the excavated material at the site. The value of this material is that we can make it speak through contemporary methodological expectations to the past. 

Finally, we might even argue that our work to address the legacy material from Polis has pushed us to think about how various kinds of legacy data exist within their own material worlds. We started with the paper notebooks produced over the course of excavations at the site and the artifacts from the dig dutifully stored in wooden trays and paper boxes. We then converted these artifacts into digital objects in databases which allowed us to recombine them in new ways. We’ve also started to think about how to publish or at very least archive our digital data in ways that ensures that they are more widely available than paper copies of records and artifacts in storerooms. We also anticipate, in some way, that our digital artifacts might last longer than the paper records produced by the site. The time of the varying materials shape our strategies. 

Obviously all these ideas need further refinement and expansion, but there will be time for that…  

Long Late Antiquity in the Chrysochou Valley

I was invited to give a paper at a conference in March at the The Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies at Oxford titled “Cyprus in the Long Late Antiquity.” My current plan is to present the results of some of our recent work at Polis Chrysochous which involves not only the careful unpacking of the material, architecture, and stratigraphy of the area E.F1, but also the first steps toward putting the excavation at Late Antique Arsinoe in the larger context of Late Antiquity on the island.

Here’s the first draft of my abstract.

(As an aside, it’s really hard to write an abstract during the summer when my attention is being drawn to the work right in front me!) 

Long Late Antiquity in the Chrysochou Valley

In 1988 and 1989, the Princeton Cyprus Expedition excavated a small, two-room structure in the village of Polis Chrysochous. These rooms are in area E.F1 according to the Princeton grid of the site and overlook the coastal plain that extends from the edge of the city of Arsinoe to the sea. They are unremarkable architecturally and their function remains unclear, but they did produce a robust assemblage of Late Roman ceramics that dates to the 7th century. This assemblage provides perspectives on the connections between Arsinoe and other regional centers both on Cyprus and elsewhere.

The E.F1 assemblage also informs our analysis of the recently published material from the South Basilica which stood nearby on the northern edge of the village amid a number of contemporary installations welcoming travelers from the coast. A comparison between the ceramics present in the two areas indicate a continued cosmopolitanism among the residents at Arsinoe in the 7th and 8th centuries. Moreover, the South Basilica and its environs underwent architectural changes that hint that the kind of dynamic Late Antique urbanism present throughout Cyprus occurred at Arsinoe as well. Far from representing the political, military, or economic disruptions characteristic of long-standing historical narratives on Cyprus, Arsinoe demonstrates a remarkable degree of continuity into the early 8th century.

Thus, while Paphos and Soloi have long dominated the narratives of Western Cyprus in Late Antiquity, recent work to publish over two decades of excavation at Polis alongside work on the Akamas peninsula, and extensive survey in the Chrysochou valley, offer new perspectives on long Late Antiquity on the western part of the island.

From Cyprus to Greece (and an advertisement for myself)

Yesterday, I wrapped up the first of my of three little study seasons and traveled from Cyprus to Greece.

As a kind of poetic gesture, our long-gestating article on the South Basilica at Polis appeared yesterday in Hesperia 88 (2019). Here’s a link to it (and if you want an offprint and don’t get the Hesperia, drop me an email or a DM on the Twitter). 

The article offers an archaeological argument for the date of two phases of the South Basilica. The second phase will likely be of most interest to architectural historians for Early Byzantine Cyprus because it involves the conversion of the church from a wood roofed structure to a barrel vault. We also managed to phase, and date, the construction of the narthex and a portico that ran the length of the southern side of the basilica. Plus, there’s a massive “French drain” (and who doesn’t love Mr. French’s drains?) designed to help deal with the flow of water against the south wall of the church. 

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The weakest part of the article is our discussion of the urban context for the basilica, and, in fact, this is a work in progress for our understanding of the site of Polis and the arrangement of Early Christian churches in the changing urban landscape of Late Antique Cyprus more generally. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll undoubtedly know that this is something that I’ve been thinking about lately

We’re also happy that this article involved links to our publication of data from Pyla-Koutsopetria in Open Context. This summer, we’ve started to work a bit on the “digital backbone” for Polis in Open Context (as well as preparing the data from our excavations at Pyla-Koutsopetria and Pyla-Vigla). This involves making our notebooks available as well as our analysis of the context pottery. The inventoried finds from Polis are already available on Open Context in draft form, but they will acquire addition significance only when linked to descriptions of the excavations and other material from the trenches. This is a big job for the area of E.F2 (in the Princeton Polis grid) which includes the South Basilica, but we hope to produce a model for organizing the E.F2 data using the smaller and more manageable area of E.F1 over the next few months.

Thinking about digital publication and curation of archaeological data is always good thing! For the next week, my old buddy David Pettegrew and I will be working with Jon Frey and Tim Gregory with some Isthmia Excavation data and trying to wrangle and think about how best to organize, disseminate, and curate their data. More on that over the next week or so…  

Western Cyprus

One of the downsides of looking at notebooks, pot sherds, and databases all day is that sometimes you forget to look around. Last week we cruised around the Chrysochou Valley a bit to check out some of villages that stand along its east side.

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From Pelethousa, we got a nice view of the Limni mines and Chrysochou Bay in the distance. We also visited the church at Chorteini.

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The church is likely Medieval (or even Byzantine) with its cross-in-square plan. The presence of a ruined aisle along its north side suggests that at some point it may have had a more basilican plan. Tiles building into the wall of the north aisle are almost certainly Late Roman or Early Byzantine in date which doesn’t do much for understanding the date of the church, but suggests that there likely was a Late Roman settlement in the area. Recent survey results, I think, confirm this. 

We also visited the Panayia Chryseleousa in the village of Lysos. This church is probably later than the church at Chorteni (with some very late additions).  My photo is overly dramatic, but the sun behind the dome seemed like a good idea at the time.

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The heraldic crests of various branches of the Lusignan family and the various Gothic touches give the church a distinctly Late Medieval Cypriot vibe.

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We have a ways to go before we understand the settlement history and landscape of the Chysochou Valley in the Roman, Late Roman, and post-Roman period. Moreover, the landscape is deceptively complex with the hill countryside east of Polis (ancient Arsinoe) is made of abrupt hills, rolling rises, and variations in landforms, resources, and access. Sorting this all out to understand the larger context for the city of Polis will be a challenge, but one with appealing views and intriguing vistas.

An Island Archaeology of Early Byzantine Cyprus

As I haiku-ed this morning on the Twitters, I am working on an abstract for a paper that I’ll give at the 2019 Dumbarton Oaks colloquium “The Insular World of Byzantium” in November.

Here’s the haiku:

Writing an abstract
During the summer season
evokes autumn cold

Here’s the abstract:

An Island Archaeology of Early Byzantine Cyprus

Over the past 20 years the work of historians and archaeologists has complicated the our understanding of the 6th to 8th century on the island of Cyprus. The tidy narratives of devastating invasions, earthquakes, condominium, and social dislocation have given way to more messy and nuanced understandings of these centuries. Some centers saw continued prosperity while other experience decline. Innovative architecture existed along side more modest forms of ceramics. Invasions created destruction and new economic relationships. The complexity of this era offers some insights into character of Cypriot insularity.

This paper is grounded in recent work at the sites of Polis (ancient Arsinoe), modern Polis, in western Cyprus and the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria on the eastern side of the island. Both sites produced a substantial assemblage of Late Roman to Early Byzantine pottery and a basilica style churches. Architecture and ceramics offer perspectives on how the Cypriot islandscape mediates distinctive economic relationships and forms of cultural and religious expression. The connection between these sites and other places on the island, across the region, and around the Mediterranean suggests the contours of an insular culture that is neither uniform nor consistent.

On the one hand, the difference in the character of assemblages and architecture across the island (and between Koutsopetria and Polis) makes defining a singular Late Roman or Early Byzantine Cypriot insular identity impossible. On the other hand, these difference reflect both historical trends that defined the island’s political and social landscape for centuries and distinct pressures of the 6th-8th century. In the case of Cyprus, an island archaeology informed as much by historical contingency as geography provides a context for a new understanding of the Early Byzantine era.

Summer Work in Cyprus

With the semester winding down, I’m beginning to organize myself for a three week summer study season at Polis in the Chrysochou Valley in western Cyprus. For the last ten years (almost!), Scott Moore and I have been working with the Princeton Cyprus Expedition team to to document and publish the rather remarkable assemblage of material from the Hellenistic to Medieval periods. The site is particularly rich in Late Roman material and includes two Early Christian basilicas, innumerable burials, lots of ceramics, and some evidence for the organization of Late Roman and post-Roman neighborhoods including roads, drainage, and industrial spaces. You can read more about our work at Polis here.

This summer, Scott and I will focus on completing our work on the area of E.F1, which was a Late Roman installation of some description that appears to have spanned the 6th to 7th century and underwent several modifications. The building itself is not terribly interesting architecturally (although a complete pane of window glass was preserved!), but it was associated with several assemblages of Late Roman ceramic material. The latest assemblage is from levels that we can date on the basis of a burial that cut into the final phase of the building. The burial contains a lead seal presumably on a document important to the deceased allowing that dates the inhumation to sometime after the final decades of the 7th century. We discuss that here. It provides a terminus ante quem for the abandonment of the building and the materials associated with the levels into which this burial was cut. We have a feeling that the material from this site will offer a distinctive Late Roman horizon for at least one episode of abandonment at Polis that might pre-date the reconstruction of the South Basilica in the neighboring area of EF2.

The cause for the abandonment of the installation at EF1 is likely to remain unclear, but what’s particular interesting is that at some point in the penultimate phase of the building’s life, there was a growing concern with drainage. The resulting covered water channels presumably represented an effort to move water around the building in a way that preserved its architectural integrity.  The final phase of the building’s life saw wall thickening and buttressing in a way reminiscent of the modifications to South Basilica indicating that the structure was compromised probably at some point in the 7th century. 

The relationship between the modified drains and the later reinforcement of the walls suggests that something about the location of this building and the flow of water made the building vulnerable. A similar scenario led to the collapse of the South Basilica nearby and this hints that the water management and drainage system of ancient Arsinoe had changed between the original construction of these buildings and the need to install drainage and reinforcement. There are many possible reasons for the change in the flow of water, but I’d be tempted to associate it with changes to the grid and roads in Arsinoe which would have disrupted the functioning of drainage systems during Late Antiquity. In other words, the modified water management systems at EF1 and EF2 may represent proxy evidence for changes to the urban fabric.

Our work at EF1 and EF2 (the South Basilica) will also contribute to two papers that I’m scheduled to give next year. One, in the fall, will consider the insularity of Byzantine Cyprus with reference to our work at Polis and Koutsopetria, east of ancient Kition. I don’t have a clear idea for that paper yet, but I think it will focus on the Early Christian architecture across the island and compare it – maybe – to the character of contemporary ceramic assemblages. I’ve argued, here and there, that both reflect choices and practices of communities across the island as well as the flow of material and knowledge (and tastes) over time. 

The second paper considers “long Late Antiquity” on Cyprus and our assemblages from Polis speak to the 7th and maybe even early 8th century material signature of these communities. The understanding of the changing ceramics and their place in everyday life reveals both the different connections between various communities on the island and across the Eastern Mediterranean as well as changing and unchanging habits and footways. 

Finally, I need to thing reflexively about how we have been dealing with legacy data from Polis for a paper that I’ve proposed for the 2020 AIA annual meeting. The migrating of data from one form to the other is an act of translation and transformation that both adds meaning but also reflects a set of priorities for how information moves through the distributed archaeological ecosystem. These priorities and values are not independent of our larger view of how our field (and the contemporary world) makes meaning and knowledge with a range of social, political, and historical implications for how we understand the past.

It should be a good summer!

  

Our ASOR Paper: A Small Production Site on Cyprus

Scott Moore and I finished our paper for the 2018 ASOR Annual Meeting this fall with alarming efficiency. The paper is titled “A Small Production Site at Polis” and offers a pretty detailed – albeit short – description of the area EF1 at Polis Chrysochous on Cyprus and some chronological notes regarding the material from the site.

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What makes this interesting is that the site has pretty decent chronological controls thanks to a Byzantine lead seal associated with a burial that has a clear physical relationship with features at the site. This burial represents the latest activity at the site and dated to some time after the final decades of the 7th century.

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The site itself has some decent deposits that allow us to date the earliest phase to later than the mid-6th century and the later modifications to it to sometime later than the early 7th, but earlier than the early 8th centuries (that is, earlier than the burial).

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The assemblage is largely residual, but it still provides us with a useful cross-section of activity at the site in the 6th and 7th century which has some local significance in how we use ceramic assemblages to date activity across the site.

Check out our paper here.   

Also, do check out some of the buzz about the potential of a name change for ASOR. This is motivated by concern about the ambiguity of the name (what are the Schools of  Oriental Research?), the outdated (if not racist) use of the term “Oriental” to describe the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, and the fact that many ASOR members are not American or even affiliated with an American university. The challenge, I suspect, will not be agreeing to change the name, but agreeing on a new name… but we’ll see.

Assemblages and the 8th Century

One of the things heard among archaeologists of the Eastern Mediterranean is that the 7th century is the new 6th century. We’re living in an era during which the “Long Late Antiquity” is becoming even longer. 

In the Western Argolid in Greece, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few Late Roman sites and assemblages both from our survey and in well-known sites in the area. My colleague Scott Gallimore and I can legitimately talk about a 7th century landscape that appears quite distinctive from earlier centuries but also shows significant signs of continuity.

At Polis Chrysochous on Cyprus, Scott Moore and I have worked on two 7th century assemblages: one from the South Basilica that we’ll publish this winter in Hesperia, and this summer we worked on a little site called EF1

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The intriguing thing about the site of EF1 is not in its architecture or even its archaeology, but that a burial with a lead sealing and a clear abandonment deposit with another lead sealing dates the destruction or abandonment of this site to sometime in the very early 8th century. The assemblage of material from the site, however, lacked many of the late-7th century artifacts that we saw across the street at the site of the South Basilica. The missing artifacts included the well-known Cypriot Red Slip “Well Form,” (dated to after 630 in a context in Anemurium) Dhiorios wares, or the last in the sequence of Late Roman Amphora (like LR13). 

We have dated the assemblage at the South Basilica to the end of the 7th century and this assemblage dates a major modification to the building’s structure. Now, however, we’re wondering whether this is really an early 8th century assemblage. The argument might go like this. Both the South Basilica assemblage and the various assemblages present at EF1 derive from secondary contexts – floor packing, construction fills, and various other levels that do not reflect use. The processes that account for the development of these assemblage took place over rather long periods of time and, as a result, the assemblages tend to have numerous examples of residual artifacts that represent a wide range of cultural and natural processes leading to their appearance in an archaeological context. In general, it appears that the material in the neighborhood of EF1 and the South Basilica derived from the nearby cite of Arsinoe (ancient Polis) and localized industrial activities. It seems reasonable to assume that the northern area of Late Antique Arsinoe saw burials, industrial activity (which took advantage of the downslope flow of water in the area), and other installations that tended to be situated on the outskirts of a Late Roman urban area.

The difference in the two assemblages in similar nearby secondary context got me thinking about both how these two groups of pottery formed over time. I had rather naively assumed that the date of the contexts was probably a couple or three decades after the latest material in the fills. This would allow for a significant enough signature of pottery to enter a particular context for it to become archaeologically visible. As I think about the South Basilica assemble, it has occurred to me that if our typical late-7th century material does not appear at EF1 where we have a pretty good date marking the abandonment of the building at this. Maybe that means that the modifications to the South Basilica has an early- to mid-8th century date?

Maybe in a few years, the 8th will be the new 7th century and on we’ll go!

Walls and Sherds from EF1

Over the past week, Scott Moore and I have tried to organize what we know about the area of EF1 at Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus. The area was excavated by the Princeton Cyprus Expedition during two seasons, 1988 and 1989, and with three trenches. The area is to the northeast of South Basilica and its neighborhood and to the west of the area EG0. It stands on the “neck” of a narrow, north sloping ridge that extends toward the coast. While I’m not entirely sure where the Late Roman city center is at Polis, I’m assuming that it is under the modern village which stands largely to the south of the South Basilica with its cemetery and its partner in the area of EG0 which is also surrounded by burials. 

Excavations at EF1 produced a group of walls that shared a similar orientation as well as a significant body of pottery and other small finds. In 2016, we read most of the pottery from secure deposits and later this week, we’ll document the various small inventoried finds. The area appears to be some kind of industrial area with significant quantities of slag, some wasters, and (maybe) some other indicators of industrial use. The entire area of EF1 has signs of significant hydraulic engineering with at least two drains running through the buildings. I suspect its position on the north slope of a hill along the top of a relatively narrow ridge gave the area and its buildings certain advantages.

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Like so much of Polis, the number of secure deposits was relatively small. Part of this is the consequence the constant reconstruction and modification of the buildings at the site over the course of Late Antiquity. The earliest secure deposit is the floor packing of a lime floor associated with the earliest major wall in the area. In a clearly defined second phase, a new series of walls were built over and around the first series of wall with a new series of fills. The material in these two phases is barely distinguishable for one another chronologically or typologically so it’s pretty challenging to date either phase securely.

We do have one secure date for the area. A burial in the area likely after a period of abandonment seems to represent the last significant activity at the site. The burial  included a lead seal that was published a couple of years ago and dated to the second half of the 7th century. In other words, it seems likely that this area was abandoned by the end of the 7th century. 

What is intriguing is that by comparing the assemblage produced at EF1 with the assemblage from the South Basilica and there are some obvious differences. For example – and this is all very tentative – the EF1 assemblage appears to lack Dhiorios cooking pots, LR13 amphoras, and the latest forms of CRS, like the so-called CRS well form. Moreover, the only evidence for a few forms of Cypriot Red Slip comes from post-abandonment levels. CRS form 8, for example, appears exclusively in post-abandonment levels. That most of the material from EF1 and the South Basilica appears in secondary contexts in construction fills and other contexts that are not associated with a particular use. The opportunity to compare substantial assemblages from two areas of the same site provides us with some significant food for thought!