Pyla-Vigla: Life and Times on a Ptolemaic Garrison Camp in Southern Cyprus Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting

of the American Schools of Oriental Research November 2012 R. Scott Moore, Indiana University of Pennsylvania William R. Caraher, University of North Dakota Brandon R. Olson, Boston University David K. Pettegrew, Messiah College Introduction This year marked the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project's tenth season of fieldwork and study in Cyprus. [SLIDE 2: team photo] With the support of Messiah College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the University of North Dakota, students and scholars have worked to study the archaeological remains in the coastal zone of Pyla village. [SLIDE 3: general map] Situated some 10 km east of ancient Kition, the site of Pyla-Vigla has produced a robust assemblage of ancient material dating to the late Cypro-Classic to early Hellenistic periods. The Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project has worked to document this material through intensive pedestrian survey, remote sensing, geophysical prospecting, and, more recently, a series of small archaeological soundings designed to ground truth the results of less invasive archaeological methods. [SLIDE 4: Vigla from west] Three short excavations seasons in 2008, 2009, and this summer focused on the prominent coastal height of Vigla situated along the coastal plain just inside the British Sovereign Base Area on the coastal road east of Larnaka. [SLIDE 5: Vigla from above with walls] Intensive survey at this site in 2006 and 2007 revealed the presence of a well-preserved fortification system surrounding the entire plateau, a nearly 20 m wide rock cut fosse or taphros, and a substantial assemblage of early Hellenistic and later pottery. [SLIDE 6: plan of Vigla Walls]


Resistivity and ground penetrating radar demonstrated the presence of a tangled mass of linear anomalies on the central plateau. [SLIDE 7: Trenches and resistivity] Excavations in 2008 and 2009 determined that the linear anomalies were the walls of domestic structures built in a number of distinct and closely related phases. The goals of the 2012 excavations were to 1) assess the extent of the occupation of the ridge; 2) determine the occupational phases of the site and the fortification wall; 3) clean, assess, and contextualize a looted area on the southwest slope and explore the possibility of burials on the slope; and 4) test new documentation strategies in an effort to supplement our traditional narrative and paper based recording system. Excavations this summer confirmed the results of earlier soundings and anchored our substantial assemblage of domestic ceramics in even more securely stratified contexts. This work complemented the results of two study seasons in 2010 and 2011 that allowed us to associate the stratified deposits with a series of discrete destruction and rebuilding events. During the course of a decade of rigorous archaeological analyses on Vigla and the identification and documentation of thousands of artifacts and architectural remains, we can now begin to examine the people living at the site. Through an analysis of three categories of evidence—metal weapons, ceramics, and architecture—we can discuss the life and times at a Hellenistic garrison camp.

Technology Before discussing the material evidence, I would like to digress and discuss our implementation of two new technologies in the field. Following the successful utilization of iPads in field recording by the Atheniou Archaeological Project, we endeavored to use the devise


in our digital humanities based field school in the field. The second facet of our technology program included the testing of Agisoft’s PhotoScan in spatial documentation.

iPads [SLIDE 8: Ipads] This season PKAP received 13 iPads from Messiah College for use in and out of the field. Nine were assigned to students, who used them for reading, note-taking, completing assignments, social media, music, and taking photos. Four were designated as field iPads for use in our four excavation units. Loaded with generic apps such as Dropbox, Files, Evernote, and FileApp Pro, we employed the devices for photographing fieldwork, circulating files, accessing the excavation manual and soil description documents, and general note-taking. Our most important app, though, was a data collection application appropriately called PKapp. [SLIDE 9 : PKapp] Created by Samuel Fee, a professor of educational technology at Washington and Jefferson College, PKapp was designed to collect the same information on stratigraphic units normally collected through paper forms: information on location, elevations, strata and Harris Matrices, soils, features, photos, drawings, procedure, and finds. Since the app was experimental, we continued to use paper forms this season as the master record of our contexts and the app as the digital backup. As it turned out, the app was extremely reliable for data collection. For fields that made use of drop-down lists, recorders were forced to enter information in standardized ways, while a description tab allowed workers to enter personal observations and general narrative information. With an in-built button for exporting the records, trench supervisors backed up data by email every evening upon returning to the hotel.



[SLIDE 10: Group shot with the shade] With the help of a tarp and dedicated group of staff and students, we were able to successfully implement PhotoScan, a photogrammetry program offering a cost-efficient and easy-to-use solution to 3D modeling needs at multiple scales of interest using digital photographs, in or excavations. The program’s user interface is ideal for practitioners at any level of computer proficiency. The program is capable of generating incredibly accurate photorealistic models, which takes digital heritage to a new level, but we wanted to use the technology to aid in field recording. [OPEN PDF AND NAVIGATE IT] With the establishment of a series of ground control points, on average nine for each 5 x 5 m trench, models produced of daily excavation units were exported as georeferenced orthophotos (accurate top-down images embedded with a real-world coordinate system). PhotoScan-generated georeferenced orthophotos provided a precise basis upon which highly accurate top plans were created without resorting to hand-produced documentation or other forms of abstraction. The spatial resolution of the images was also very good, as the exported 2D orthophoto of excavation units averaged .65 mm. Plans drafted from a dataset produced by PhotoScan are vastly superior to the gross estimations and abstractions necessitated by hand drawing. Anyone working with information derived from PhotoScan in a GIS program can do so in an unmediated environment, largely unprejudiced by the imprecisions of the human hand. Simply having a spatially accurate, photo-realistic 3D model of an excavation unit is revolutionary in its own right, [SLIDE 11: Agisoft Image] but it is the resources that can be produced from this data that will most alter the expectations of what can be accomplished by archaeologists in the field. The flexibility offered at every stage of processing makes PhotoScan an ideal tool for excavations seeking to capitalize on the analytical value of quickly produced 3D models in the field, while also cultivating a dataset that lends itself to the production of long term, high-quality


documentation. Archaeological documentation is often developed with the scholarly community in mind. Archaeology, in addition to being a scholarly pursuit, is a public mission to reveal the past and preserve it in a way that is culturally meaningful. Digital archaeological resources, like those produced by PhotoScan present a new and exciting medium for the dissemination of archaeological data and represent a valuable documentation strategy.

Life and Times at a Garrison With an abundance of military objects, evidence of low-level manufacture, the presence of a massive fortification system, a utilitarian based ceramic assemblage, and small domestic quarters, we are confident that the residents of the Vigla height were engaged in military activities.

Metal Weapons [SLIDE 12: sling bullet] Among the more important finds of the season was a sling pellet with an inscribed name, Tharugos, and a symbol on the reverse, which, upon initial examination, appears to be agricultural in nature. This sling pellet, currently under study, [SLIDE 13: PKAP sling bullets] contributes a new name to a corpus of sling pellets published some 30 years ago from the site by Nicolaou. [SLIDE 14: weapons] Other popular weapons include bronze catapult bolts known as Tanged Bodkin heads [those projectiles with a square section], shafted bronze tri-blade arrowheads of the Scythian variety [the tiny, stubby arrowhead], tanged iron bi-blade arrowhead and an, iron knife blade. Although all forms changed little over time, all examples were available in the late Cypro-Classical and Hellenistic periods. With weapons attested with three different methods of


production, casting at lower temps for lead using ceramic moulds, casting at higher temps for bronze in stone moulds, and forging for iron implements, a site as small as Vigla would not have the necessary resources to produce each variety, suggesting that the site was actively connected to either existing trade networks or some sort of industrial quarter.

Ceramics The ceramic assemblages associated with all three occupational levels are domestic in character and appear to date rather narrowly to the late 4th to mid-3rd centuries. [SLIDE 15: two lamps] Ceramic remains from the latest occupational level included a wide array of cooking wares, imported Attic vessels, two lamps (1 Attic and 1 open form), and utility wares. Of interesting note is the size of vessels in use for the consumption of food. [SLIDE 16: Small vessels] While small (less than 20cm diameter) bowls, most of which are of the inturned variety, are ubiquitous in the excavated occupational assemblages, large open vessels for table service are, at this early stage of analysis, non-existent. A dining experience that consists of (1) small personal dining vessels, (2) closed cooking pots, and (3) casseroles without larger table service forms is indicative of an experience where food was transported directly from cooking vessel to personal serving dish. The ceramics indicate that the inhabitants of Vigla engaged in a more mundane and isolated dining experience, as opposed to a more elaborate, convivial, and interactive form, all of which further substantiate the rather modest standard of living among those living at Vigla. With the presence of similar shapes, such as lamps and vessels used for consuming food (inturned rim bowls), in both locally (local in the sense of Cyprus and possibly the greater Levantine coastal littoral) procured fabrics and imported Attic wares, it is clear that, although


Attic imports do not dominate the assemblage, those living at Vigla sought out imported Attic vessels and their imitations. All of which suggest that the community on the Vigla plateau, while perhaps positioned to defend a vulnerable stretch of coastline, nevertheless participated in larger patterns of Mediterranean exchange.

Architecture [SLIDE 17: EU 15 note overburden of soil] Our work on the Vigla plateau has provided evidence for several phases of occupation. These phases have left close to two meters of accumulated soil sitting atop bedrock. While we have found fragments of Iron Age pottery scattered on the ridge, the earliest architecture is consistently associated with the early Hellenistic period. [SLIDE 18: note stone sockle in EU 14] The first architectural evidence for settlement at the site consists of stone sockles for mudbrick walls and packed earth and clay floors set immediately on the bedrock, which was partially exposed across the plateau at the time of occupation. Packed earth subfloors served to level the irregularities in the bedrock. There is no evidence for tile roofs. This phase apparently suffered a violent destruction leaving ash, tumbled mudbrick walls, and smashed ceramic vessels as evidence. Coins found on the floors of Phase 1 include Alexander types that feature a young Heracles on the obverse and Alexander’s name on the reverse, suggesting a destruction date in the late 4th or early third century BC. The ceramic assemblage supports this date as well. In 2012, we placed two new soundings on the Vigla plateau – EU 14 and EU 15 – over linear anomalies visible in the resistivity results. Both soundings revealed the interior of buildings and appear to confirm the existence of this earliest phase of activity across the site. Once the ceramics and metal objects from these sites undergo


proper study, they will add substantially to our understanding of the date and perhaps function of the earliest settlement on Vigla. [SLIDE 19: note floor above phase 1 sockle and wall tip] Both of the 2012 trenches on the ridge also confirmed the presence of a second phase of activities on Vigla that appears to have followed very quickly on the destruction of Phase 1. With the destruction of Phase 1, the residents leveled the destruction debris, often using it for sub-floor packing, and continued the tradition of mudbrick walls set on stone sockles and packed earth floors sealed with lime. Like Phase 1, Phase 2 appears to have come to an abrupt end in nearly all the trenches. EU15 featured a particularly well-preserved wall tip that shows the violent impact of the wall on the lime plaster floor. [SLIDE 20: Note paving slab] At the same time, EU14 suggested that the building erected in Phase 2 may have stood for some time as they were modified in a systematic way prior to its final destruction. The excavations in 2008, 2009, and 2012 have produced ceramic assemblages that are difficult to distinguish from the earlier phase of occupation suggesting that Phase 2 was in the late 4th to mid 3rd century as well. While none of our small soundings were extensive enough to produce an entire room, much less an entire building, it seems clear that the buildings across the Vigla plateau were closely packed in arrangement and domestic in function

Conclusions [Slide 21: closing slide, nice view] While the rather substantial number of finds from occupation, destruction, construction, and, perhaps cleaning levels identified in the 2012 excavations will require a full study season to disentangle, our initial impression is that the architectural development of the site took place primarily during the early Hellenistic period. Our


excavations at Vigla have produced no good evidence for architectural phases dating before or after the Hellenistic period, despite the presence of Late Bronze Age material at Kokkinokremos, the presence of Iron Age pottery in the Pyla region, and substantial town of Roman and Late Roman date on the Koutsopetria plain. Rather, the occupation of Vigla appears to be narrowly focused on the early Hellenistic age. Coins of Alexander on floor surfaces most likely date to the last decades of the fourth or early decades of the third century, and this accords well with the ceramic assemblage so far analyzed. Moreover, the late 4th to early 3rd century is the most plausible period historically for the rapid process of construction, destruction, and re-occupation. The presence of a now infilled embayment at the site made it a strategically valuable stretch of coastline. The massive investment in fortification would perhaps fit best into the last years of the kingdom of Kition when the Antigonid-allied city attempted to secure its coastline from the inevitable Ptolemaic invasion. When the city fell to the Ptolemies, there was every reason for the new rulers of the island to seek to defend an important coastal site that could secure overland routes to the flanks of both Kition and Salamis.
The conscious choice to bring in Attic imports and imitations, and prepare food in the ancient Greek tradition in casseroles alludes to a population with interest in, if not adherence to, Greek cultural traditions. The presence of a vast array of militaria, in the form of lead sling bullets inscribed with Greek characters, bronze catapult bolts, iron blades, and bronze arrowheads in nearly all EUs excavated at Vigla in three years of target excavation, as well as the fact that the site was fortified in this very period, alludes to a military presence at the site. With the turbulent political climate characterizing the late 4th and early 3rd centuries BC in Cyprus, the Levant, Anatolia, Egypt, and Greece, it is certainly possible that the inhabitants of Vigla were a contingent of “Greek” mercenaries employed either by the fading local Phoenician king at Kition or by foreign Hellenistic monarchs.


R. Scott Moore, Indiana University of Pennsylvania William R. Caraher, University of North Dakota Brandon R. Olson, Boston University David K. Pettegrew, Messiah College


Xylotymbou Ormidhia



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