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Reconstructing Community from Broken Pots and Ruined Churches on Cyprus.

Reconstructing Community from Broken Pots and Ruined Churches on Cyprus.

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Published by billcaraher
This is a paper delivered on September 27, 2013 at the Workshop on Late Antiquity at the University of Texas, Austin.
This is a paper delivered on September 27, 2013 at the Workshop on Late Antiquity at the University of Texas, Austin.

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Published by: billcaraher on Sep 25, 2013
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01/21/2014

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Do not cite without author’s permission. © 2013
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Reconstructing Community from Broken Pots and Ruined Churches on Cyprus William Caraher, University of North DakotaDelivered at the University of Texas, Austin Workshop on Late Antiquity September 27, 2013IntroductionAbout a year ago, a friend and Texas Alumnus Dimitri Nakassis, asked me an informal,but not uninformed question: why does no one pay attention to archaeology on Cyprus?After telling him that strictly speaking this was not true, it got me thinking about thearchaeology of Cyprus more broadly and what we need to do to draw Cyprus more fully intoongoing conversations in Mediterranean archaeology. As this talk is being presented as part of series on Late Antiquity, I’ll largely limit my remarks to the Late Antique period on thisisland, but the Roman and Late Roman periods work well for a consideration of archaeology on the island in a larger Mediterranean context. More specifically, I’ll bracket the paper withtwo sites on the island of Late Roman date where I have done field work over the last decade:Polis-Chrysochous and Pyla-Koutsopetria. [SLIDE]Part of my goal of working at these sites (and I can’t speak necessarily for my collaborators) is to use Late Antique Cyprus as a way to think regionally both on Cyprus andin the Eastern Mediterranean. [SLIDE] When I say that I want to use Cyprus to think in aregional way, I do not want to emphasize the insularity of Cyprus made it somehow a self-contained entity or autonomous in a social or economic way. In fact, the insularity of Cyprushas tended to make it more connected to the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean and the LateRoman world. With the situation of Cyprus as background, this paper today will serve as apreliminary exploration of two issues that I think I’ll be able to relate to each other. First, I’mgoing to consider the archaeology and architecture of a building called the “South Basilica” atPolis in relation to other churches of a similar date and style on the island. [SLIDE] Then, I’mgoing to look at a rather extraordinary assemblage of pottery from this church and compare itto assemblages from across the island to attempt to understand issues of connectivity on aregional scale.
 
Do not cite without author’s permission. © 2013
2
PolisSince 2010, I’ve been working with an amazing team of scholars at the site of Polis-
Chrysochous
, ancient Arsinoe, in the northwestern corner of the island. Settled during theNeolithic and called Marion during the Iron Age, Ptolemy Philadelphus refounded the city asArisnoe during the chaotic Hellenistic period on the island. During the Late Roman periodthe city was the seat of a bishop and had at least three basilica style churches, two of which were excavated by the Princeton Polis Expedition in the 1980s and 1990s. Amy Papalexandrou, Scott Moore, Brandon Olson and I are working to publish the churches fromthe site. [SLIDE] We have so far focused on the church that we’ve designated the South Basilica. The remains of this church stands in a built up zone of the Late Antique city calledby the excavators E.F2. It included several phases of architecture, numerous burials, elaborate water works, and city streets.Methodological Interlude[SLIDE] Before we proceed with my analysis, I feel like I should include a brief word onmethod. Amy Papalexandrou and I with the support of long time project director WillieChilds and Joanna Smith have re-studied the architecture of the South Basilica which wasoriginally studied by Danny Curcic in a series of papers in the mid-1980s. We planned tobring greater attention to the stratigraphic record to bear on Curcic’s largely typological,architectural analysis with a particular interest in producing archaeological dates for the various modifications to the church’s plan and structure. Over the past three years, a team of scholars has worked to create a series of digital documents useful for the analysis of the site.The first step was to digitize the analogue notebooks produced over the course of the originalexcavation. The site was excavated according to trenches which were then subdivided intolevels and passes. In general, levels represented either stratigraphic or horizontal divisions ineach trench and passes provided greater resolution. Because several levels could be opensimultaneously across the trench, the excavators frequently disregarded the ‘last in, first out’rule in excavation in favor of a more ad hoc approach. As a result, the description of eachlevel appeared scattered throughout each trench’s notebook recorded more or less in theorder that the excavator worked on the level. This made it very difficult to reconstruct thestratigraphy of a trench or even to understand the archaeological relationship between levels.Fortunately, the Princeton Polis Expedition had recently begun a program to scan all thenotebooks and images collected over the 30 years of activity at the site. [SLIDE] We used thescanned notebook as the basis for our transcription of the level and pass descriptions from the
 
Do not cite without author’s permission. © 2013
3
trenches in immediate vicinity of the South Basilica. This allowed us to reorganize the dataaccording to stratigraphic relationship and to produce Harris Matrixes for each trench.[SLIDE] We also prepared a digital site plan for the area of the South Basilica based on thestate plans produced by the project’s architects and the regular trench plans produced over thecourse of excavation. This allowed us to relate walls removed over the course of excavation or across several trenches (or even years) and begin to correlate certain stratigraphic units acrossthe entire site. All this was done in ArcGIS which provided us with a flexible workspace for the analysis of horizontal relationships. The digitized notebooks and GIS have allowed us toproduce georeferenced descriptions of the excavation process. Our work is not quite done,but we hope that this opens the doors to unique opportunities for publishing both theexcavation data and our analysis. We are particularly sanguine about the prospects of integrating 3D photogrammetry with our digitized notebook data, but our work along theselines remains in its early stages.[SLIDE] At the same time that we worked to organize the excavation notebooks andplans, we set about studying the context pottery from the excavations. During theexcavations, trench supervisors and specialists identified and recorded separately highly diagnostic pottery and other individually significant artifacts (coins, lamps, architecturalfragments, et c.). The remaining pottery was quickly documented, undiagnostic sherdsdiscarded, and a representative sample kept for future study. This sample included mostfeature sherds, rims, handles, bases, and some examples of distinct fabrics. These artifacts hadnot been studied systematically for the area around the South Basilica and in 2010, R. ScottMoore and myself used our reconstruction of the site’s stratigraphy as the basis for the study the context pottery. Over the past three years, we have documented over 20,000 artifactsfrom the Princeton Polis Excavations created a database that integrates these artifacts with thestratigraphy and the existing “inventoried finds”. This database provides the basic structurefor my study today.To return, then, to the task at hand. [SLIDE]Polis ContinuedThe South Basilica at Polis-Chrysochous is merely one of over 100 known Early Christian basilicas on the island of Cyprus and one of the thousands that dot the EasternMediterranean and date to the 5
th
-7
th
centuries [SLIDE]. Even small communities oftenfeatured multiple basilicas. It is unremarkable, then, that the site of Polis has at least three

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