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Archaeological Institute of America Lecture: Ten Years at an Ancient Harbor in Cyprus

Archaeological Institute of America Lecture: Ten Years at an Ancient Harbor in Cyprus

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Ten Years at an Ancient Harbor in Cyprus William R.

Caraher University of North Dakota Archaeological Institute of American Lecture Delivered at Valparaiso University September 25, 2012 I. Thanks a. First, I’d like to thank the AIA for making these kinds of talks possible… b. Valparaiso c. Cesnola endowment and its relationship to Cyprus. II. The Two Stories of PKAP: the goal of this my talk this evening is to interleave two stories: a. [SLIDE] The first is the story of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project and its work on Cyprus. b. [SLIDE] The second is the story of the site itself beginning in the Iron Age (around 1000 BC) and continuing through to today (and our project’s arrival on the site) c. There will be some topics that receive special attention in this story: i. [SLIDE] Archaeological Methods: the project began as an intensive survey project committed to a particularly robust sampling of a rather small area. ii. [SLIDE] Sites that do not fit into typical definitions of rural or urban. iii. Two Main Periods 1. [SLIDE] The Hellenistic Era 2. [SLIDE x2] Late Antiquity a. Both ceramic objects – most notably this Late Roman fineware rims b. And architecture iv. Some interesting minor periods: 1. [SLIDE] Iron Age – a. Like this statue of Bes uncovered in the 19th century now in the Louvre. b. Or these small figurines recovered during the survey of our site. 2. Roman d. [SLIDE] The goal of this approach is to play a bit with the place of narrative in archaeology. Archaeology is at its best when its telling stories with things. The project itself also has a story to tell and in many ways, the story of project – its participants, the site, and the objects we discovered – dictates the stories we can tell about the history of the site. So it’s just natural that these two stories intersect and play off each other in my talk here today.

III. Locating ourselves. a. [SLIDE] But before we embark on any story-telling, we should make an effort to locate ourselves geographically, topographically, and historically. b. Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is approximately 9,200 sq km (which makes it about 10% the size of Indiana). Its closest neighbor is Turkey, but it is only 150 miles by boat to Lebanon and just under 600 miles from Cyprus to Egypt. [SLIDE x 2] c. The climate on the island is Mediterranean: dry and hot in the summer and cool and wet (when it rains) in the winter. It easily gets into the 90s in mid May and over 100 during the hottest days in July and August. d. Resources: Cyprus was known in antiquity for its copper and iron mines and its agricultural productivity. While no more than 20% of the island can be cultivated, the proximity of arable land to the coast made it easy to move its produce – olive, wine, grain, and in the 19th century carobs – to distant urban markets. e. The island has a particularly complex political and economic history both ancient and modern. Its proximity to the Levantine coast, Egypt, Asia Minor, and the Aegean lands positioned it to serve as a cultural and economic crossroads in the region. Moreover, it rendered the island politically vulnerable to external influences. [SLIDE] i. The earliest permanent settlers on the island arrived during the Neolithic period (around 8000 BC) although groups of hunters and temporary settlers had been visiting the island for thousands of years previous. During the last phases of the Bronze Age (after around 1200 BC) a number of independent polities developed some of which seems to have been dominated by a Greek speaking populations. [SLIDE] ii. From the latest Bronze Age and throughout the Cypro-Archaic and Cypro-Classical period, these independent polities governed the island – city-states basically which quarreled with one another, represented distinct, if not unique cultures, economies, and political systems. [SLIDE] iii. By the 5th century, however, the island felt Persian influence and with the dissolution of the Persian Empire under Alexander the Great in the 4th century, the island became part of the broader Hellenistic world. [SLIDE] iv. With the Roman conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean Cyprus slotted into the various forms of Roman administration for the region generally being governed as a province. [SLIDE] v. The island remained closely connected with the Roman empire in the east from the 7th-12th century, although with the rise of the Islamic empires in the 7th century, the island passed briefly into an odd condominium arrangement where it was under join Arab and Byzantine control.[SLIDE] vi. In the post-Byzantine period, the island became a base for Crusaders, an outpost of the Venentian Empire, and ultimately a possession of the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, as

the Ottoman Empire began its slow decline, the island passed in British hands. It received its independence in 1956. vii. [SLIDE] The post colonial history of the island is perhaps the best known to the general public. The Turkish and Greek populations of the island did not get along well and after a series of violent clashes between the Greek and Turkish residents, the Turkish state intervened and invaded. Today the island remains divided by an UN monitored Demilitarized Zone. The Republic of Cyprus politically represents the entire island, but in reality only controls the southern twothirds, and the northern 1/3 of the island is governed by the Turkish Cypriots although it is not presently recognized by any state other than Turkey. f. Our Site i. Our site is located on the south coast of the island near the modern village of Pyla where our site gets its name. ii. Pyla Village is located in the southeastern quadrant of the island at the intersection of both ancient and modern political boundaries. iii. [SLIDE] The site fell along the far eastern boundaries of the city-state of Kition which now lies under the modern city of Larnaka, where our project is based. [SLIDE] Our study area is located on the coast and appears to have stood at the natural point for the main coastal road to turn inland toward the major ancient city of Salamis. iv. [SLIDE] The nearby village of Pyla is the only bi-communal village on the island and is located in the UN buffer zone. v. [SLIDE] Our site, however, is located on the firing ranges of the British Military base in an area called the British Sovereign Area (BSA) which is actually part of the UK (but oddly enough, is not part of the EU!). [SLIDE] The interaction between the Cypriot Department of Antiquities, the British Military, and the Sovereign Base Authority has caused some occasional issues, but British base has led to the area being neglected both developmentally and archaeologically. g. Site topography: [SLIDE] i. The site stands on Larnaka Bay some 10 km east of the city of Larnaka and just within the boundary of the SBA and on the coastal road. ii. Topographically our site consists of two dominant sets of features 1. The narrow coastal plain of Koutsopetria with its nowinfilled ancient harbor. 2. The series of abrupt coastal ridges the two most prominent of which are names Vigla and Kokkinokremos. iii. The western half of the coastal plain was densely built up in ancient times and the slightly rolling topography conforms to the remains of ancient buildings iv. The infilled harbor sits on the eastern side of the site and it is almost completely flat except for the faint shadow of an earlier coastal ridge probably consolidated by a road.

v. The two major coastal heights are Pleistocene marine terraces and there is significant evidence for quarrying the soft limestone. vi. [SLIDE] Kokkinokremos to the east and [SLIDE] Vigla to the west vii. [SLIDE] From Vigla, the entire stretch of Larnaka Bay was visible.

IV. PKAP beginnings. a. [SLIDE]The site itself has been known since the 19th century when Luigi Palma di Cesnola would stop there to look for antiquities on his way to his summer retreat at the nearby village of Ormidhia. Since that time a number of so-called stray finds have come up including a well-known head of the Phoenician Bes from the Archaic Period (around the 7th c. and now at the Louvre) and a large olive oil settling basin (at the Larnaka Museum). b. [SLIDE] In the 1950 and 1970s there were small-scale excavations at the Late Bronze Age site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos and we continue to work to refine the conclusions proposed by this fieldwork. c. [SLIDE] In the early 1990s when the area was threatened by development, Dr. Maria Hadjicosti (now the director of the Cypriot Department of Antiquities) conducted emergency excavations on the coastal plain and discovered the remains of an impressive Early Christian basilica. While this excavation was in the SBA, this land was originally owned by Dr. Maria Hadjicosti’s family. The folks who excavated the site alongside Dr. Hadjicosti were friends and archaeologists who volunteered time. d. [SLIDE] The Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project really grew out of Dr. Hadjicosti’s willingness to allow us to continue her work at the site. We were interested in the Late Roman period at the site and offered to help publish the Christian basilica there in exchange for being allowed to do work across the site as a whole. e. This initiated a collaboration between the Department of Antiquities, and a team led by myself, Scott Moore (IUP), and David Pettegrew (MC). f. [SLIDE] But no archaeological project is ever just three people, and over the last 10 years of fieldwork, we have constructed a team that now draws from over 10 universities individuals with specializations ranging from the Bronze Age Aegean, Roman wallpaintings, to geomorphology, Classical period Cypriot sculpture, Early Christian architecture, archaeological methodology, Roman ceramics, Bronze Age ceramics, and, on one unusual occasion the 20th century Western United States.


Chronological Context: The Late Roman Period a. From the start of the project, [SLIDE] we have had a strong focus on the Late Roman period at the site. The Late Roman period extends from the 4th century through the late 7th century AD. i. This period is far and away the most extensive at our site, and, in fact, the extensive remains from this period attracted us to this site to begin with. ii. At the same time, the Late Roman period has undergone an important re-assessment in the last half century. The image of late antiquity as a period of political decadence, and economic collapse has given way to a rosier picture of political, economic, and cultural vitality. In fact, the loss of the western territories of the Roman Empire after the retirement of the last emperor in Rome (476) belies the continuing dynamism of the eastern half the Roman state. The continued economic prosperity of the Eastern Mediterranean provided a sound foundation for the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity and the attendant political recalibrations which led to the emergence of the so-called Byzantine state. iii. So local opportunity intersected with a major trend in academic research to motivate us to visit the site in 2003 and walk through the fields documenting in an informal way. We were immediately overwhelmed by the extent and quantity of material on the surface of the ground. Identifiable ceramics extended for close to a kilometer along the coast and 700 m inland. iv. It soon became obvious that artifact densities exceeded the 3000 artifacts per ha that most Eastern Mediterranean projects would regard as a site. In fact, for some sections of our site, we recognized artifact densities that exceeded 10,000 artifacts per ha. This was not just some modest rural site or an isolated church, but a major center of activity on the Cypriot coastline v. To do this we devised an intensive survey method designed to produce a significant level of spatial control and a robust sample of the material from the surface of the ground. There was no way to document a site of this size through excavation. 1. [SLIDE x 2] We laid out a grid of 40 x 40 m grid squares that we hoped would capture spatial variation across the site at a reasonable resolution considering the long history of plowing at the site which displaced artifacts in a characteristic plough smear across the coastal plain. 2. [SLIDE x 3] From each unit, a team of four walkers spaced at 10 m intervals counted a sample of the artifacts visible on 20% of the surface and then collected a sample of the different kinds of artifacts present using a system called the Chronotype system.

3. [SLIDE] We processed the artifacts in the Larnaka district archaeology museum and recorded them according to each unit. 4. This became the basis for our distributional analysis of artifacts across the surface of the site. b. Results i. Late Roman Expansion. 1. [SLIDE]Check out the explosion of Late Roman material across the site. By the Late Roman period it covered over a built up core of the site characterized by the presence of rooftiles covered at least 10 hectares, a high density scattered covered 40 ha, and Late Roman period material covered 70 ha. 2. Marcus Rautmann has called Late Roman Cyprus “a busy countryside”. 3. [SLIDE x 2] Our site conforms to this pattern in that compared to earlier periods at the site, the Late Roman period is busy indeed. Curiously, however, there is almost no textual references to our site except a vague references in John Moschos to a side of Tadai that was a “market town.” In other words, there is no evidence that this settlement 4. [SLIDE x 3] The Early Christian basilica at the site indicates that the site was integrated in some way into the institutional structures of the island. The wall painting (as yet unpublished), marble revetment, and relatively elaborate architecture speak the wealth that even a small site like ours could have rather elaborate 5. At the same time the settlement fits into a gap between the urban and the rural in Cyprus and across the Mediterranean. ii. Imports and Exports at a Late Roman Port. So what circumstances allowed a site like ours to prosper? 1. [SLIDE x 2] The most obvious feature at our site is the massive abundance of Late Roman 1 amphoras. These are easy to identify by their diagnostic handles. 2. The absence of other kinds of Late Roman amphoras – particular Aegean Late Roman 2 and Levantine Amphoras (Late Roman 4s, for example) suggest that the site saw relatively little in the way of bulk imports. (although it is possible that some Late Roman 1 amphoras came from Asia Minor.) 3. [SLIDE] It is worth noting that we found evidence for an olive press at the site with a press weight and fragmentary crusher stone indicating that the primary processing of olive oil took place on site. 4. [SLIDE x 2]Fineware. Curiously, the site produced a robust and diverse assemblage of imported finewares. In fact, the finewares at our site appear in rather different proportions than most other sites on Cyprus suggesting that it might be a location for the import of


fineware from Asia Minor and North Africa as well as elsewhere on the island. 5. [SLIDE x 4] PHW. The most curious aspect of the fineware is the distribution of PHW pottery which seems to be concentrated in an area which lacked rooftiles and significant evidence for ARS or CRS – the other major Late Roman forms.

VI. Excavations on Vigla: Hellenistic Period a. [SLIDE] Narrating Vigla: While most stories start with the earlier period of time and move later through time, archaeology tends to move the other direction from the most recent back to earlier period. Our work at Pyla-Koutsopetria conformed to that pattern. We were so mesmerized by the massive Late Roman spread that we barely noticed the less pronounced distribution of material from earlier periods except as a backdrop to the Late Roman boom. b. Hypothesizing. In fact, we were so obsessed with the Late Roman period and how they used the landscape that we became convinced that the height of Vigla must have had an important site in Late Roman times. i. [SLIDE x 2] Oblique aerial photographs and late spring rains conspired to reveal a stretch of fortification wall running along the northern side of the Vigla. They also clarified a massive rock cut dry moat which appeared – at least initially – to conform to the dimensions of Late Roman military strategists. ii. Intensive survey of the ridges revealed more significant stretches of the wall and a chunk of wall which used a gypsum mortar not too dissimilar to that used in the basilica on the plain. iii. [SLIDE] Geophysical work produced a maze of walls that seemed to us to look a lot like a basilica style building with an eastern apse. iv. (We conveniently overlooked the absence of significant quantities of Late Roman roof tiles which are the tell-tale signs of monumental architecture.) c. Excavating and Reconsidering. In our excitement to expand the knowledge of the Late Roman site, we received permission to ground truth the results of our geophysical work. Over three seasons we excavated 8 trenches designed to determine the function of the architecture on the plateau, the date and phases of the fortification wall, and to test various hypotheses that emerged from excavations. i. The was NO Early Christian Basilica. ii. A Hellenistic period fortified settlement. iii. There is a fantastic coincidence. David Pettegrew and I had worked to publish a couple of Hellenistic fortifications in Greece over the past decade. So while it wasn’t a Late Roman fortified monastery, it was still ok to us. iv. Of course, this perhaps all makes sense for a place called Vigla or watching out place. d. Results: i. Fortification Foundations. 1. Our first trench on the eastern side of the hill provided little in the way of chronology, but did show that the wall on the east side saw a series of rapid constructions or modification. In fact, one phase cut through a plastered mudbrick wall, the collapse of which was preserved in floor packing with the plaster still

adhering to the bricks suggesting that the interval between the destruction of the mudbrick wall the new floor was so short that neither the mudbrick nor the plaster was exposed to the elements. 2. [SLIDE] The second trench near the western side of the fortification demonstrated that there were significant repairs to the fortification wall at least some of which sat on soil which had eroded down the slope of Vigla after the earliest phases of wall were built on the bedrock (which did not preserve any foundation trenches). Despite this nice relative chronology, there was not anything to preserve an absolute date. 3. [SLIDE] The final trench on the wall hit paydirt. A substantial trench along the north wall of the fortification revealed a massive stretch of wall close to 2.5 m wide. More importantly, it preserved a stone lined storage pit filled with what appears (and this pit was excavated this summer so our results are quite preliminary) to be a single phase clean-up dump. The material in this dump appears to all be Early Hellenistic in date, but we’ll know more after its comprehensive study this coming summer. ii. Domestic Space. Our excavations on the center of the plateau provide evidence that will help to clarify the results of our excavations at the fortification walls. 1. Two Phases. Our 6 trenches on the Vigla plateau all hit walls and parts of the interior of buildings suggesting that the top of Vigla had at least some areas of heavily built up construction (and confirming the success of our geophysical work to identify walls immediately below a rather shallow plow zone). These trenches preserved two clearly defined phases with plaster floors, mudbrick walls, and probably thatch and mud roofs. 2. Violent. The end of each phase appears to have come to a violent end with the earlier phase typically forming the floor packing of the later phase. In some places the trenches and scarps revealed clearly articulated wall tips lying atop plaster floors. In other cases, layers of ash suggest that a conflagration ended both the first and second phase at the site. 3. Domestic. The assemblages associated with both phases appears to be entirely datable to the very end of the Cypro-Classical era or the very beginning of the Hellenistic. In other words, both phases look to be 4th century in date and the assemblages are generally domestic in character including [Brandon’s section]… iii. Military Equipment. The most interesting aspect of the site is a small, but rather well-preserved assemblage of military equipment. 1. This includes two new inscribed sling pellets and evidence for the manufacture of these lead projectiles. We also found catapult bolts, spear points, and wonderful

example of an arrowhead suggesting that the domestic structures probably housed soldiers or mercenaries associated with the fortification. 2. This material fits into a larger assemblage of material confiscated from the site in the 1970s. VII. Historical Conclusions: The Story of Our Site a. There is no indication of continuity between the LBA site at Kokkinokremos and the Iron Age activity at the site. b. The site of Pyla-Koutsopetria first emerges in the early Iron Age with a concentration of activity on the coastal heights above Koutsopetria. This material seems to be associated with a sanctuary that saw activity at least as early as the 7th century BC and seems to persist into at least Classical period. c. The Classical period showed a gradual expansion of activities in the area with more material appearing on the coastal plain. d. The Hellenistic period, however, witnessed the most dramatic expansion of activities with the fortification of the height of Vigla. This fortification was set up during the tumultuous final days of independent Iron Age kingdoms on Cyprus when the various successors of Alexander fought over control of the Eastern Mediterranean. The position of the site at an important intersection of the coastal road and seaborne traffic around the eastern part of the island. e. By the Roman period and with the diminished threat of political instability, the fortification at Vigla is abandoned and the coastal plain comes alive. f. The boom of course, starts in Late Antiquity, when the site flourished as a bustling harbor town with at least one Early Christian basilica, and a remarkable assemblage of finewarses. g. In the 7th century, as coastal threats returned, the site declines quickly in size and intensity. The harbor gradually fills in, the basilica appears to have been salvaged, a small coastal battery was installed, and the fields are turned over to cultivation of grain and closer to the sea, melons. h. When we arrived at the site in 2003, the British military leased the fields to local farmers and they grew feed across the site.

50 MINUTES Dates (Hellenistic period BC/Late Roman AD) Include image of Vigla/Kokkinokremos - Do more to introduce audience to the topography of the site. What to do about Iron Age? Cut back on Kokkinokremos…

Ten  Years  at  an  Ancient  Harbor  in  Cyprus  

William  Caraher,  Department  of  History,  University  of  North  Dakota   Pyla-­‐Koutsopetria  Archaeological  Project  

Sites  that  don’t  fit  into  typical  definiGons  of  rural  or  urban  

Low  alGtude  Air  photo  of  landscape   And  water  tanks  

Copper  ingot  


Roman  Cyprus  (Paphos  Mosaic  slide?)  



Vigla   Koutsopetria  



Polis (Marion) Ag. Georgios-Pegeia


Ancient Road?



Paphos Kourion






Vigla   Koutsopetria  

Slide  of  area.  

Low Lying Sandy Land




Cadastral  Map  


Late  Roman  1  Amphora  

More  slides  of  arGfacts  

Density  of  Late  Roman  Fine  Wares  

Density  of  Cypriot  Red  Slip  

Density  of  African  Red  Slip  

Density  of  Phocaean  Red  Slip  Ware  

Density  of  ImitaGon  African  Red  Slip  

Late  Roman   Fine  Wares  

Archaeological Project

ARS 4.95% 10.39% 6.85%

CRS 85.15% 55.56% 53.98%

PHW 7.92% 34.05% 37.07%

ERS 1.98% 0.00 1.10%

Maroni CPSP Kopetra






0   CRS   ARS   PHW   Local   ERS  

Vigla  South  Wall  

Vigla  South  Wall  

Vigla  West  Wall  

Slide  Small  Vessels  


PKAP  acknowledgments  
With  the  permission  of:  The  Department  of  AnGquiGes,  Cyprus  and  The   SBA  and  the  Ministry  of  Defence  

Financial  or  technical  support  provided  by:  
University  of  North  Dakota:  Vice  President  of  Research:  Arts  and  HumaniGes  Seed   Grant  Program,  College  of  Arts  and  Sciences,  The  Graduate  School,  Office  of   InstrucGonal  Development,  Department  of  History,  SSAC.   Indiana  University  of  Pennsylvania   Messiah  College   McGill  University   University  of  Edinburgh   Ohio  State  ExcavaGons  at  Isthmia   Cyprus  American  Archaeological  Research  InsGtute  (CAARI)   The  InsGtute  for  Aegean  Prehistory  (INSTAP)   Mediterranean  Archaeological  Trust   Brennan  FoundaGon   American  Schools  of  Oriental  Research  (ASOR)   Private  Donors  

And  thanks  to  our  many  volunteers  and  colleagues  who  have  made  our  research  possible.  

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