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A Report on the Excavations at Pyla-Vigla 2011

A Report on the Excavations at Pyla-Vigla 2011

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Published by billcaraher
A brief description of recent archaeological fieldwork on the site of Pyla-Vigla on Cyprus.
A brief description of recent archaeological fieldwork on the site of Pyla-Vigla on Cyprus.

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Published by: billcaraher on Mar 28, 2011
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11/25/2012

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WORKING PAPER – DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM AUTHORS © 2011
 1
Pyla-
Koutsopetria
Archaeological Project: Recent Work at the Site of Pyla-
Vigla
 William Caraher, David K. Pettegrew, R. Scott Moore.Over the past eight field and study seasons the Pyla-
Koutsopetria
Archaeological Projecthas systematically investigated the coastal zone of Pyla Village to document the evidence for human activity in this dynamic micro-region of Larnaka Bay. The PKAP study area hascompassed 101 ha extending inland from the coastal plain to the buffer zone around Pyla Villageand the modern coastal highway. The area’s eastern border is the Dhekelia Cantonment, itswestern limits the built up tourist districts of Larnaka (fig. 1). The dominant topographicalfeatures of the area are two abrupt coastal heights,
Vigla
and
Kokkinokremos
, which form theplateau known locally as
Mavrospilos
or 
Kazamas
. The narrow coastal plain extending from thebase of these heights to the foreshore is known as
Koutsopetria
. There is every reason to believethat the low-lying eastern part of this coastal plain represents the remains of a now infilledembayment that served as an ancient harbor.
1
 We have explored this area using a full range of archaeological techniques includingintensive pedestrian survey, geological survey, geophysical prospecting, and limited excavations.Preliminary reports on the geological work and pedestrian survey appeared in earlier volumes of this journal.
2
The goal of our work across the entire region has been to complement, expand, andcontextualize the information gathered from earlier archaeological work in the area and todocument an undeveloped stretch of Larnaka Bay’s coastline with significant phases of culturalactivity. Our intensive survey of the fields adjacent to the excavated Early Christian basilica andcomplex at Pyla-
Koutsopetria
has recorded an extensive and apparently wealthy Late Antiquecoastal community deeply engaged in both the local and trans-Mediterranean economy. Surveyand geophysical work on the height of 
Vigla
has revealed a previously overlooked fortificationwall enclosing an area dense with architecture, as well as a wide scatter of pottery along thesouthern edge of the ridges.

1
Caraher 
et al.
“The Pyla-
Koutsopetria
Archaeological Project: First Preliminary Report (2003-2004 Seasons),”
RDAC 
(2005), 248; V. Karageorghis and M . Demas,
Pyla-Kokkinokremos: A Late 13th Century Fortified Settlement in Cyprus
(Nicosia 1984), ##.
2
Caraher 
et al 
. 2005, 246-268; Caraher 
et al.
, “The Pyla-
Koutsopetria
Archaeological Project: Second PreliminaryReport (2005-2006 Seasons),”
RDAC 
(2007), 293-306.
 
WORKING PAPER – DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM AUTHORS © 2011
 2
Our contribution in this paper will focus on the site of Pyla-
Vigla
which we documentedthrough intensive pedestrian survey (2006 and 2007), geophysical work (2007 and 2008), andexcavation (2008 and 2009). The prominent coastal height is located at the western border of theBritish Sovereign Base Area and the Dhekelia Cantonment and is immediately visible to anytraveler driving along the coastal road from Larnaka. The steep slopes on the southern, western,and eastern sides of the hill emphasize the dramatic elevation (55 masl) of the plateau which,throughout antiquity, offered an easily fortified coastal exposure. The
Vigla
plateau connects tothe larger 
Mavrospilos
/
Kazamas
plateau by a relatively narrow isthmus that shows significantlocal erosion resulting from the excavation of bedrock to produce a dry moat 18-20 m wide. Thetop of the plateau itself slopes gently toward the southern side, the higher northern side possiblya result of a collapsed fortification.Views from the height encompass the entire Larnaka Bay from Capes Kiti to Pyla, whichmay account for the modern toponym of the site
Vigla
, the “watch post.” The ancient name of aplaced called
Dades
, preserved in Ptolemy the Geographer’s description of Cyprus and located tothe east of Kition, could allude to the use of torches to communicate the approach of ships fromlookout positions along the coast.
3
There is evidence for the presence of military units on thehill, not only in the strategic location of the height but also the collection of lead sling pelletsfound by looters and an inscribed game board of Hellenistic date.
4
Indeed, more systematicarchaeological surface investigation of the height revealed a fortification wall and a robustscatter of material on the surface. Geophysical prospection indicated the presence of architectureacross the plateau and soundings conducted in 2008 and 2009 produced evidence for a smallsettlement destroyed twice by fire. The dominant phase of activity on the plateau dates from theHellenistic to Early Roman period with traces of later and earlier activity across the site.Altogether, this evidence has led us to infer a short-lived fortified coastal settlement dating to theturbulent Hellenistic era with one significant phase of reoccupation and a later ephemeraloccupation of ancient date.

3
Ptol.
Geog.
5.14
4
I. Nicolaou, “Inscriptiones Cypriae Alphadeticae XVI,”
RDAC 
(1977), 209-216; I. Nicolaou, “InscriptionesCypriae Alphadeticae XVIII, 1978,”
RDAC 
(1979), 344-351;I. Nicolaou, “Inscriptiones Cypriae Alphadeticae XIX,1979,”
RDAC 
(1980), 261-262.
 
WORKING PAPER – DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM AUTHORS © 2011
 3
Pedestrian Survey and Geophysical Prospecting 
The initial research method used to document the archaeological remains from the Pylaregion was intensive pedestrian survey. This involved systematically walking survey units at 10m spacing counting all visible artifacts and collecting unique examples according to thechronotype sampling system.
5
Because of the dramatic topography of the height of 
Vigla
, wefollowed a slightly modified method for documenting the visible surface assemblage. While wewalked the flat top section of the plateau on two occasions using our standard method, weadhered less rigorous to the 10 m spacing while following the contour of the slopes that boundthe north, west, and east sides of the hill. We did not systematically investigate the northernextent of the height as it was overgrown with vegetation and strewn with beehives filled withstinging bees.The field walking at
Vigla
produced artifact densities between 11,000 and 15,000 artifactsper ha, exceptional not only in comparison to adjacent fields but even exceeding the highestdensities in the entire survey area more generally (fig. 2). The assemblage from the survey waslarge and exceedingly diverse with 1,000 artifacts representing over 50 different types of ceramics (chronotypes) spanning 16 periods. Close to 45% of the material from the site could beassigned to a specific historical period, and this was significantly better than the 41% average for the survey area as a whole. The periods present in the surface assemblage indicated continuousactivity in the area from the Iron Age to the Late Antiquity with almost no prehistoric material.The assemblage also showed for almost every period represented a remarkable diversity of finewares, cooking ware, and storage and utility wares. Post-ancient periods on the site left lessevidence for activity suggesting that the area fell out of regular use from the 7
th
to 20
th
century.Surface material dating from the Iron Age to the Hellenistic period accounts for 42% of theassemblage that can be dated to specific historical periods. The Iron Age artifacts consist of painted fine wares and a range of greenware fabrics datable to the Geometric and Archaicperiods. This material was consistent with a dense concentration of material some 350 meters tothe north of the
Vigla
plateau suggesting that both
Vigla
and the coastal ridge of 
Mavrospilos
/
Kazamas
saw sustained activity in the pre-Cypro-Classical period. During the

5
We have documented our methods extensively in our preliminary reports. See Caraher 
et al.
in
RDAC 
2005 and2007.
 

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