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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 Project
has 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 has
compassed 101 ha extending inland from the coastal plain to the buffer zone around Pyla Village
and the modern coastal highway. The area’s eastern border is the Dhekelia Cantonment, its
western limits the built up tourist districts of Larnaka (fig. 1). The dominant topographical
features of the area are two abrupt coastal heights, Vigla and Kokkinokremos, which form the
plateau known locally as Mavrospilos or Kazamas. The narrow coastal plain extending from the
base of these heights to the foreshore is known as Koutsopetria. There is every reason to believe
that the low-lying eastern part of this coastal plain represents the remains of a now infilled
embayment that served as an ancient harbor.1

We have explored this area using a full range of archaeological techniques including
intensive 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, and
contextualize the information gathered from earlier archaeological work in the area and to
document an undeveloped stretch of Larnaka Bay’s coastline with significant phases of cultural
activity. Our intensive survey of the fields adjacent to the excavated Early Christian basilica and
complex at Pyla-Koutsopetria has recorded an extensive and apparently wealthy Late Antique
coastal community deeply engaged in both the local and trans-Mediterranean economy. Survey
and geophysical work on the height of Vigla has revealed a previously overlooked fortification
wall enclosing an area dense with architecture, as well as a wide scatter of pottery along the
southern edge of the ridges.
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), ##.
Caraher et al. 2005, 246-268; Caraher et al., “The Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project: Second Preliminary
Report (2005-2006 Seasons),” RDAC (2007), 293-306.


Our contribution in this paper will focus on the site of Pyla-Vigla which we documented
through intensive pedestrian survey (2006 and 2007), geophysical work (2007 and 2008), and
excavation (2008 and 2009). The prominent coastal height is located at the western border of the
British Sovereign Base Area and the Dhekelia Cantonment and is immediately visible to any
traveler 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 to
the larger Mavrospilos / Kazamas plateau by a relatively narrow isthmus that shows significant
local erosion resulting from the excavation of bedrock to produce a dry moat 18-20 m wide. The
top of the plateau itself slopes gently toward the southern side, the higher northern side possibly
a result of a collapsed fortification.

Views from the height encompass the entire Larnaka Bay from Capes Kiti to Pyla, which
may account for the modern toponym of the site Vigla, the “watch post.” The ancient name of a
placed called Dades, preserved in Ptolemy the Geographer’s description of Cyprus and located to
the east of Kition, could allude to the use of torches to communicate the approach of ships from
lookout positions along the coast.3 There is evidence for the presence of military units on the
hill, not only in the strategic location of the height but also the collection of lead sling pellets
found by looters and an inscribed game board of Hellenistic date.4 Indeed, more systematic
archaeological surface investigation of the height revealed a fortification wall and a robust
scatter of material on the surface. Geophysical prospection indicated the presence of architecture
across the plateau and soundings conducted in 2008 and 2009 produced evidence for a small
settlement destroyed twice by fire. The dominant phase of activity on the plateau dates from the
Hellenistic 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 the
turbulent Hellenistic era with one significant phase of reoccupation and a later ephemeral
occupation of ancient date.

Ptol. Geog. 5.14
I. Nicolaou, “Inscriptiones Cypriae Alphadeticae XVI,” RDAC (1977), 209-216; I. Nicolaou, “Inscriptiones
Cypriae Alphadeticae XVIII, 1978,” RDAC (1979), 344-351;I. Nicolaou, “Inscriptiones Cypriae Alphadeticae XIX,
1979,” RDAC (1980), 261-262.


Pedestrian Survey and Geophysical Prospecting

The initial research method used to document the archaeological remains from the Pyla
region was intensive pedestrian survey. This involved systematically walking survey units at 10
m spacing counting all visible artifacts and collecting unique examples according to the
chronotype sampling system.5 Because of the dramatic topography of the height of Vigla, we
followed a slightly modified method for documenting the visible surface assemblage. While we
walked the flat top section of the plateau on two occasions using our standard method, we
adhered less rigorous to the 10 m spacing while following the contour of the slopes that bound
the north, west, and east sides of the hill. We did not systematically investigate the northern
extent of the height as it was overgrown with vegetation and strewn with beehives filled with
stinging bees.

The field walking at Vigla produced artifact densities between 11,000 and 15,000 artifacts
per ha, exceptional not only in comparison to adjacent fields but even exceeding the highest
densities in the entire survey area more generally (fig. 2). The assemblage from the survey was
large 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 be
assigned 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 continuous
activity 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 fine
wares, cooking ware, and storage and utility wares. Post-ancient periods on the site left less
evidence for activity suggesting that the area fell out of regular use from the 7th to 20th century.

Surface material dating from the Iron Age to the Hellenistic period accounts for 42% of the
assemblage 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 Archaic
periods. This material was consistent with a dense concentration of material some 350 meters to
the 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
We have documented our methods extensively in our preliminary reports. See Caraher et al. in RDAC 2005 and


Cypro-Classical to Hellenistic period, activity continued both on Vigla and as well as on the
related site to the north of Vigla that extended across the Mavrospilos/Kazamas ridge. Both
Vigla and the area to the north produced a remarkable assemblage of Hellenistic black slip and
color-coated wares, lamps, kitchen wares, and utility wares, which suggests that the entire top of
the ridge saw expanded habitation from the Classical to Hellenistic period.

Abundant Hellenistic-Early Roman material at Vigla may point to occupation either

immediately before or during the important transitional period between Hellenistic rule and
Roman control of the island. Both the surface and the northern slope of Vigla presented a robust
and diverse assemblage of material that included large quantities of kitchen ware as well as fine
ware, amphora sherds, and medium coarse and coarse utility wares. This diverse assemblage
continued to the north where a cluster along the southern edge of the Mavrospilos/Kazamas ridge
included fine ware, kitchen ware, coarse ware, medium coarse ware, and amphora sherds.

A significant body of material also dated to the Roman period (2nd BC-7th AD) with
significant quantities of Roman cooking and utility wares, including coarse ware, medium coarse
ware, and amphora in Roman and Late Roman fabrics. Unlike earlier periods, relatively little
fine ware from these periods appeared: a few sherds of Eastern Sigillata A from the Early Roman
period and, from the Late Roman period, a single sherd of Cypriot Red Slip Form 9 and another
local imitation of popular and ubiquitous African Red Slip. The lack of fine ware atop the
coastal height coincides with the shift in the center of habitation to the coastal plain below where
abounds a dense and complex assemblage of Roman period material. The security that Roman
rule brought to the island allowed for local residents to exploit the embayment more fully. At the
same time, the coastal ridgeline may have seen or agricultural activity as well as industrial uses
tied to quarrying stones from the coastal ridges for use in the Roman town below. Beginning in
the Early Roman period, the entire coastal littoral of the Pyla region saw a gradual increase in
activity, the brightest phase being the 5th and 6th centuries when every part of the region saw
some evidence for human presence.

Geophysical Survey

The topography of Vigla and dense carpet of artifacts made the ridge an ideal location for
geophysical survey. In 2008 and 2009, the PKAP team collaborated with John Hunt and Beverly


Chiarulli to conduct electrical resistivity and ground penetrating radar on the site. Resistivity
work produced evidence for a number of perpendicular lines running both north to south and at
least two strong lines running east to west across the height (fig. 3). These lines suggested the
possibility of a monumental east-west oriented structure on the hill. Additional geophysical
work using ground-penetrating radar in 2009 confirmed the results from the earlier resistivity
survey and excavation on the hill. The application of ground penetrating radar, which could
more easily navigate vegetation and slopes, allowed us to expand the area investigated to below
the ridge. For this work we concentrated on an area near a possible tomb uncovered by looters in
the winter of 2007/2008 on the southwestern side of the hill. The readings gathered from this
steeply sloping and highly eroded terrain suggests that several structures exist in this area
including a clearly defined square feature not inconsistent with a shape of a monumental tomb.
These results combined with the presence of at least one known burial in the vicinity suggest that
the south slope of Vigla could be the site of burials for the local community. This is significant
because despite the considerable evidence for settlement in the area of Koutsopetria and Vigla,
there is little evidence for a cemetery during the historical period.

Excavations on Vigla

In 2008 and 2009, PKAP received permission from the Cyprus Department of Antiquities
to conduct limited soundings on the height of Vigla in order to groundtruth the results produced
by intensive pedestrian survey and geophysical work. As noted above, these results suggested
the presence of substantial, perhaps monumental, walls, features, and buildings across the height
and complemented the extensive and diverse scatter of ceramic material. Survey and geophysical
work on the ridge indicated that any activities on the site were likely to be both long-lived and

Our excavation in 2008 did not discover monumental architecture, but rather, several
phases of domestic architecture of Hellenistic and Roman date. The 2009 excavations, in turn,
were designed to refine the chronology and architectural relationships, and address questions
raised by our 2008 soundings. We excavated four trenches on the plateau over the course of two
seasons: Excavation Unit 1, 2, 5, and 8 (fig. 4, fig. 5, fig. 6). While all of these trenches were


limited in extent, they provided significant information about the nature and phases of habitation
at the site, and allowed us to move toward a cohesive site history for Vigla. Excavations clearly
articulated four broad phases of land use and habitation over the last 2,300 years. There was
very little material recorded that predated the Hellenistic period, despite the relative abundance
of Iron Age material on the surface of the ridge, and there was no architecture assigned later than
Roman period.

The first occupation of the site (Phase 1) occurred in the Hellenistic period. This phase was
documented in all four trenches and represents an extensive use of the plateau. The earliest
inhabitants of Vigla removed the thin and uneven layer of soil covering the plateau and
constructed their habitation directly on the exposed bedrock. To create sound foundations, they
set their dry-stacked walls in such a way as to respect the natural dips in the limestone, some
indication that soil depths were shallow and limestone was exposed on the surface, as it is today
in other parts of the coastal ridges. The natural bedrock shelf across the plateau is highly
irregular. The elevation of the bedrock over part of the plateau varied by over a meter with the
prevailing slope from west to east and a more subtle slope from south to north. Variation in
bedrock also occurred within smaller spaces making it necessary for the first builders to level the
irregularities with soil and debris to create even surfaces for earth floors and occasionally
associated slabs. Most of the sturdy walls found in the different EUs were constructed during
Phase 1.

All buildings of Phase 1 were set immediately atop unmodified bedrock. Following the
leveling of irregular dips, the occupants laid packed earth floors evidently without making use of
mortar or lime. The walls across the site tend to be poorly preserved as they stood less than 1 m
below the modern plough zone and often immediately below the surface. The walls are built of
cobbles stacked irregularly without mortar, and range in width from 0.40 to 0.60 m. Their
narrow and rather irregular construction suggests that they represent the socles for mudbrick
walls, an inference corroborated by degraded mudbrick in almost all of the trenches. No
trenches produced the carefully stacked masonry common to Classical and Hellenistic period
walls elsewhere in the region.6 Large orthostats of EUs 2 and 5 are less than 1.0 m high so it is

Cf., for example, L. W. Sorenson and K. W. Jacobsen, Panayia Ematousa: A Rural Site in South-Eastern Cyprus
(Athens 2006).


not possible to determine whether they represent simply the socle for a mudbrick superstructure,
or the base of a well-built stone wall (fig. 7). The total absence of roof tiles from the trenches
most likely indicate that the roofs were made of thatch and mud. In general, the construction
style present in the first phase of architecture indicates that settlement on the plateau was modest
and comprised of small buildings with little architectural or structural elaboration.

The artifacts associated with Phase 1 represent a varied assemblage that points to
occupation and settlement. Excavations revealed significant amounts of utility and coarse wares,
storage vessels (amphorae, pithoi), kitchen wares for food preparation, fine black-glazed and
color-coated table ware for dining, kitchen ware, lamps, animal bone, and various implements,
tools, and weapons (iron spit, lead plume, lead sling bullets). The occupants of the height
evidently abandoned their homes rapidly, for artifacts like coins and pottery are found in situ on
the floor of the rooms.

Fire ultimately destroyed the Phase 1 occupation and left evidence of ash, charcoal, and
burnt soils and artifacts in the different units. In EU 1, on the eastern half of the ridge, the
mudbrick walls collapsed into the building and buried the room under a thick layer of mudbrick;
that room was never refurbished. Similar wall collapses occurred in the rooms of the other
trenches, but their comparative shallowness point to the reoccupation of these areas in
subsequent periods. The presence of spear points in several units (EU 1 and EU 2) on Phase 1
floors above bedrock either point to the weapons by which the settlement was attacked, or
weapons abandoned by fleeing residents.

The second phase of the site (Phase 2) involved a new period of occupation at Vigla during
the late Hellenistic-Early Roman era. As the last substantial period of occupation, this phase
leaves a strong physical signature, although there no Phase 2 architecture was found in the single
excavation unit (1) on the eastern side of the plateau. In this phase, the inhabitants refurbished
existing buildings, leveled out earlier destruction debris, added new walls and repaired older
ones. The most significant innovation present in the architecture from the second phase is the
use of lime-based beddings for floors and frequent floor slabs set atop dense beds of rubble from
the earlier phase. The walls were mudbrick and, as in the first phase, the roofs must have been
timber as there is no evidence for tile construction. The construction continued to lack any
monumental pretensions and functioned mainly to serve the needs of a modest local community.


Like the earliest settlement, Phase 2 occupation represents settlement debris that includes a
full range of pottery types (utility and storage vessels, stamped amphoras, kitchen ware, black-
glazed and color-coated fine wares, lamps), floor fragments (plaster), weapons (arrows), metal
implements (iron, bronze, and lead), agricultural processing equipment (pestles and grinders),
stone bowls, animal bone, figurines, and coins (fig. 8). The similarity of the assemblages of
Phase 1 and Phase 2 suggest that the reoccupation of the site occurred not longer after the
destruction of Phase 1. The good preservation of Phase 2 artifacts on the floors of the buildings
again points to a rapid abandonment or destruction, sealed by ash and burned materials from a
violent conflagration.

Phase 3 marks a more ephemeral occupation after the substantial settlement of Phase 2.
There is evidence for limited reoccupation and use of some buildings on the western side of the
ridge that probably occurred during the Early Roman period since no Late Roman or Medieval
material was documented in the trenches. In this phase of reoccupation, new walls were added in
EU 1 and EU 2. However, these walls were very different from those of Phase 1 and 2 in that
they were constructed of earth with a single course of stones laid on top. These new walls or
surfaces cut through the floors of Phase 2. We only found patchy evidence for Phase 3
occupation in the western part of the ridge, immediately below the surface. Subsequent plowing
has eroded most of the strata associated with this phase. In this phase, some digging disturbed
earlier levels and robbed large blocks out of an earlier wall. After Phase 3 reoccupation, a long
period of abandonment occurred across the entire site that deposited a narrow band of compact
soil sealing the earlier phases. This band probably represents natural geomorphological
processes or an old plow zone that hardened over time. This hard layer reflects the abandonment
of the site and complements the absence of any substantial quantity of post-ancient or Medieval
material from the surface survey.

Phase 4 of the site is the modern period. The plow zone represents the most extensive
disturbance noted in all of the units, but on the western side of the ridge where remains were
closest to surface, several pits were dug into the former habitations, either in association with the
British occupation of the ridge or illegal metal detecting and looting activities.


Fortifications on Vigla

During the course of intensive survey and geophysical work on Vigla, the team discovered
extensive remains of a fortification wall made visible after a round of late spring rains. The
fortification wall encompassed an area of just under 10,000 sq. meters (fig. 9). While today little
of the wall stands more than one course above the level of the surrounding surface, it was
nevertheless possible to trace the wall for over 100 meters along the southern slope of the
plateau. Where both faces of the wall were visible, we measured a width of 1.7-1.8 meters.
Throughout its course, the wall consisted of two faces of locally-quarried, roughly-dress blocks
averaging generally less than 0.5 m in length with a rubble core. Along most of the wall, there is
almost no evidence for mortar.

On the western, southern, and eastern sides of the plateau, the wall followed the natural
contour of the slope. As a result, the wall is particularly susceptible to collapse down the slope
or being covered by eroding sediments from the plateau. Along the steeply sloping eastern side
of the height, only single 12 m long section of wall remained visible. The steep slope of the
eastern side of Vigla and the evidence for substantial erosion suggests that sections of the wall
perhaps collapsed down the slope. Soundings conducted in 2008 along this stretch of wall
showed that the preserved wall along this side was 1.7 m wide at this point. The wall consisted of
two faces roughly-cut dressed blocks with rubble fill.

The western side of the wall is the least visible on Vigla as it is most likely covered with
soil eroding from the top. Soundings at the northwestern corner of Vigla exposed a 5 m long
stretch of wall to reveal that the fortification underwent repair and probably saw several phases
of construction. The northwestern corner is a different construction style than the other stretches
of wall, making use of significant quantities of gypsum-based mortar to face a substantial rubble
core. It seems likely that this represents the remains of a tower designed to protect an entrance to
the enceinte at the northwestern corner. Further to the south near what must have been the
southwest corner of the enceinte, the wall appears once more and continues for approximately 20
m. While only the external face of the wall is visible here, it appears similar in construction to
the wall that runs along the southern face of Vigla.


The northern stretch of the wall is almost completely invisible, but it appears to have
followed a slight ridge along the northern part of the Vigla plateau. Excavations by looters in the
early summer or spring of 2010 exposed a small section of this wall’s southern face. Further to
the west, more sections of the wall are visible, but these appear to follow a different course from
the section exposed by looters perhaps suggesting that the wall changes course at some point
near the northwestern corner. Further north, there are visible remains of an 18-20 m dry moat or
fosse cut into the local bedrock. This imposing feature probably combined the practical
contingency of local quarrying with the tactical advantage of providing defenders of additional
height from which to assault attackers approaching the fortification from the north. The fosse
effectively separates the Vigla promontory from the mass of the Mavrospilos/Kazamas plateau.

In 2008 and 2009, PKAP excavated two units of the perimeter fortification wall in an effort
to establish a stratigraphic basis for dating the wall. The challenge to excavating the wall was
that the significant slope and erosion present along the wall’s well-preserved southern side made
stratified deposits unlikely. As a result, we focused our soundings on areas where the wall
appeared less effected by local erosion and had the potential to preserve some local soil depth
and local stratigraphy associated with the construction of the wall.

EU 6 bisected the course of the wall visible on the eastern side of Vigla. It revealed at least
three phases of construction, the latest of which was the substantial fortification wall visible
today on the eastern side of the hill. The sounding revealed three phases of construction none of
which can be certainly related to the phases present in the center of the plateau: a plastered
mudbrick wall built directly on the bedrock and running perpendicular to the slope of the hill, a
later rough stone wall that cut the mudbrick wall and ran parallel to the contour of the hill, and
the more substantial eastern fortification wall.

Despite the multiple phases of architecture visible in this sounding, the finds from the
trench date almost exclusively to the Hellenistic period. The sounding produced a number of
secure contexts that allowed us to establish a basic chronology for the depositional processes and
features in the unit. The mudbrick wall included shells and fragments of medium coarse and
coarse ware, kitchen ware, and fine ware; the latest diagnostic material from the mudbrick wall
are fragments of Hellenistic cooking ware, fine ware, and coarse ware. The builders of this wall
added ceramic fragments and organic material as temper for the bricks which were probably


produced on site. A group of sealed deposits also exist below a hard packed floor associated
with the stone wall. The latest artifacts in the floor packing date to the Hellenistic period. This
includes examples of Hellenistic black glaze, color coated ware, fine ware, and amphora. It was
not possible to date the eastern fortification wall based on material from this sounding.

In 2009, we excavated a section of the fortification wall at the northwestern corner of Vigla
(EU 9) where it makes its turn from east-west to north-south. We identified this section of wall
as suitable for soundings because the soil to the south of this section of wall was of sufficient
depth to preserve possible foundation deposits and the section of wall present in this sounding
seemed to represent a different style of construction than that visible elsewhere on Vigla. The
east-west wall visible in this area was constructed using considerable quantities of a mortar that
was not dissimilar to the mortar fragments found on the Koutsopetria plain to the south but
appearing only rarely along other stretches of wall on Vigla. The north-south part of the wall
appeared from the surface to be similar to the wall along the southern or eastern edge of plateau.
It was constructed with two faces of roughly-dressed larger stones and a cobble fill.

The excavation of this sounding revealed more of the complicated construction history of
the Vigla fortifications by uncovering at least two phases of fortification: a northern mortared
wall that ran west-east and a rubble western wall that run north-south. The mortared northern
wall was built directly on the bedrock, with no sign of a foundation trench or any ceramic
material associated with its construction. The western wall, on the other hand, was partially built
atop a section of the mortared northern wall providing definite evidence for the two phases of
construction. The latest chronologically diagnostic artifacts useful for dating the wall were
found in a layer of soil running beneath the western wall and abutting the northern wall. The
assemblage included two fragments of Iron Age medium coarse ware, Classical-Early Roman
fine ware, Hellenistic fine ware, Hellenistic black glaze, and Hellenistic to Early Roman kitchen
ware. The Hellenistic-Early Roman material provides a terminus post quem for the western wall,
but the existing stratigraphy could not provide a terminus post quem for the northern wall. Since
the western wall overlaps the northern wall, it was certainly constructed earlier, but since it was
founded on the bedrock, we were not able to assign a date based on stratigraphy alone.

Lacking clear stratigraphic dates for the fortifications on Vigla, we hoped that construction
style would provide some basic indication of the chronology of the fortification. Unfortunately,


the relatively poor state of knowledge regarding monumental architecture and fortifications from
the Classical to Hellenistic date in Cyprus presents a significant difficulty in establishing
comparanda for construction styles.7 True ashlar construction, for example, typical in other parts
of the Greek world, is rare in fortification on Cyprus in the historical era.8 Moreover, such labor
intensive construction techniques might be unwarranted on a rural fortification such as this and
unsuited to the relatively porous local (pouropetra) limestone.9 The wall construction, then,
along the best-preserved sections of the fortification at Vigla provides little insight into the
chronology of the fortification.

The construction style also provides few clues to the circumstances surrounding the
building of the wall. The best-preserved elevation of wall occurred along the northern side of the
Vigla fortification overlooking the rock cute fosse, visible in a trench dug by looters in 2010.
The course of the wall in this section suggest that parts of the wall featured uncoursed masonry
with roughly dressed facing and smaller stones acting as chinking. The relatively well-ordered
arrangement of stones, however, suggests some interest in aesthetics and may indicate that this
face of the wall was visible. This style, moreover, is more or less compatible with the
construction of better-preserved walls of Hellenistic date from the nearby site of Panayia-
Ematousa.10 In contrast, the eastern side seems to present a more informal construction style
where closely dated walls were built over in rapid succession. While this could suggest that the
wall was built hastily in response to a particular episode, the less impressive style probably
relates to the strategic potential of the ridge. The eastern side towers above a very steep slope
that would have created significant difficulty for an attacking army; it was the least likely side
from which to attack and the inhabitants evidently invested less in the construction. By contrast,
the point of easiest access to the ridge, the west and north, shows evidence of more significant
investment. The rock cut fosse along the north, for example, represents a significant investment
in the fortification. The northwestern corner also shows repeated episodes of reuse that point to
its strategic importance, as does the mortared foundation at the southeast corner, which likewise

Wright, Ancient Building on Cyprus. (Leiden 1992), 254-255, claims that large-scale fortification did not exist, but
this appears contradicted by the catalog produced by C. Balandier, “The defensive network of Cyprus at the
Hellenistic period and during the first centuries of the Roman Empire (3rd century B.C.- 3rd century A.D.)” RDAC
(2002), 323-337.
Wright, Ancient Building, 252, for the ashlar fortifications at Nea Paphos.
Wright, Ancient Building, 358-360.
E.g. Wall 21 in L. W. Sorensen, “Architectural Analysis,” in Panayia Ematousa, 71-73.


represents a more substantial and monumental foundation required for a tower or protected
entrance. The apparent shift in the line of the northern wall between the section exposed by
looters and the wall visible to the west would be consistent with a kind of dogleg designed to
provide additional protection for the entrance to the fortified enceinte on Vigla.

At present, we can cautiously conclude that the various construction styles fit comfortably
within the Archaic to Hellenistic periods, and may be contemporary with the Hellenistic-Early
Roman settlement on top of the plateau. The absence of mortar in visible sections of wall
suggests that the wall is pre-Roman in date, but the presence of gypsum mortar at the
northwestern and southeast corner may point to a later Roman addition to the wall.

Historical Situation for the Buildings on Vigla

The presence of Iron Age and Classical material across the surface of the site and in some
of the excavated soundings indicates that habitation existed in the area prior to the Hellenistic
period. It seems likely that the coastal ridge served as an easily defended location for settlement
allowing residents to exploit a good natural embayment, the fertile coastal plain, and natural
fortifications provided by the steep coastal bluffs. This observation is consistent with known
prehistoric activity at the well-documented site of Pyla-Kokkinokremos situated less than a
kilometer to the east of Pyla-Vigla.

The earliest preserved architecture on the site dates to the Hellenistic period and includes
both the modest dwellings situated throughout the central area of the plateau and several phases
of fortification. There have been efforts elsewhere in the Mediterranean to associate rural
fortification with particular historical situations,11 and it is tempting to understand the
fortification and settlement on Vigla in a similar way. After all, the historical situation in Cyprus
from the 4th to 2nd century BC was often unsettled politically and militarily.12 As a result, the

W. Caraher, D. K. Pettegrew, and S. James, “Towers and Fortifications at Vayia in the Southeast Corinthia,”
Hesperia 79 (2010), 385-415; W. Caraher and T. E. Gregory, “Fortifications of Mount Oneion, Corinthia,” Hesperia
75, 327-356; M. H. Munn, The Defense of Attica: The Dema Wall and the Boiotian Ware of 378-375 B.C. (Berkeley
1993); J. Ober, Fortress Attica: Defense of the Athenian Land Frontier, 404-322 (Leiden 1985); McRedie, Fortified
For a good summary, see A. Avraamides, “Studies in Hellenistic Cyprus 323-380 B.C.” diss. University of
Minnesota, Minneapolis 1971, 5-39; G. Hill, A History of Cyprus. Vol. 1 (Cambridge 1940), 164-211.


island saw significant investment in military activities at various points over these centuries.
Nikokles’ fortification of his new capital in Paphos represented some of the earliest responses to
the island-wide conflicts that emerged as the imperial aspirations of the Diadochi fueled local
political rivalries. It is possible that the last dynastic kings of Kition fortified Vigla both to
defend a major route into the city as well as the residents of this vulnerable stretch of coastline.
A fortification of the coastal route to Kition is consistent with Balandier’s suggestion that the
Antigonids sponsored the first wave of post-Classical fortification on the island in an effort to
forestall a Ptolemaic reconquest.13 If the fortification was an Antigonid effort to defend the
independence of Kition, it was unsuccessful. By 312 the Ptolemaic forces had executed the last
king of that city and, despite some initial military success following the siege of Salamis in 315,
the Antigonid efforts to secure control of the island receded in the early 3rd century.14

The fortification at Vigla presumably served both the local inhabitants and the island’s
Hellenistic rulers. The 3rd-century suppression of local dynasties and the rise of Ptolemaic power
shifted the institutional structure of the military presence on the island. Bagnall and Mitford
have attempted to reconstruct the changing military and political administration of the island
over the course of the 3rd and 2nd centuries.15 While the entire island fell under the command of a
strategos, local military organization most likely followed older civic organization of the island
with hegemones serving as the local military administrators.16 There is evidence for a hegemon
at Kition including an inscription referring to the office from around Ormidhia.17 As Balandier
noted, this time of administrative reorganization would have been suitable for the construction of
fortifications across the island designed to accommodate garrisons and mercenaries under the
command of newly created administrative officers.18 Unfortunately textual sources for the
political and military situation on the island during the 3rd century are scant making it impossible
to assign the activities on Vigla to specific threats or defensive requirements, but the presence of
domestic quarters in the center of the plateau, the circumstances under which the first phase was

Balandier, “The Defensive Network,” 326-330.
Avraamides, “Studies,” 14; Diod. 19.56-57.
R. Bagnall, The Administration of the Ptolemaic Possessions outside of Egypt (Leiden 1976), 38-79; T. B.
Mitford, “Seleucus and Theodorus,” Op. Ath. 1 (1953), 130-171.
Bagnall, Administration, 49-57.
SEG 6.823; Bagnall, Administration, 52.
Balandier “The Defensive Network”, 333.


destroyed, and the evidence for repairs to the walls are consistent with sustained military
presence at the site.

The repairs to the Vigla fortifications some point after the beginning of the Hellenistic era
indicate that the fortification was not a single-use construction but was maintained for some
time. Balandier suggested that sites initially fortified under the Antigonids, such as Paleokastro
on the Kormakiti peninsula, saw renewed activity in the 3rd or 2nd century,19 and it seems
possible that Vigla also followed this pattern. The continued strategic importance of this
coastline allowed the fortifications to continue to play a role in the defense of the island
throughout the second century. It is difficult to imagine that the fortification remained in use and
was maintained during the Roman period, and the presence of numerous cut blocks on the
Koutsopetria plain below suggests that the fortifications were quarried for building material. It is
uncertain from our limited investigations whether the gypsum-mortared repairs to the walls date
to a final phase of antiquity when the island of Cyprus again played a strategic role in the
military activities of the eastern Mediterranean.


Intensive survey, geophysical prospecting, and small sounding represent low-impact means
of documenting archaeological remains. These three techniques have produced substantial
evidence for a new fortified site on the Cypriot coastline that enjoyed a long period of activity
from the Iron Age through Late Antique times. The dramatic topography of the site, the
commanding views, and the convenient location along the coastal road attracted the local
population to the site in the Iron Age. The architectural floruit of the site, however, was clearly
the Hellenistic period with its two major phases of construction and occupation. It is probable
that the Hellenistic building on the site coincided with the fortification of the ridge and military
use. The site seems to have continued in use into the Roman period as the excavations revealed
modification of some of the existing structures on the site, but by the Late Roman period, there is
little evidence for extensive occupation on the ridge, although activities and land use there
certainly continued. The Middle Ages saw the marked contraction of activities across the entire
region and left very little trace on the site of Pyla-Vigla. In the most recent era, local farmers

Balandier, “Defensive Network.”


from Pyla village cultivated the site along with the coastal plain and the nearby ridge of
Kokkinokremos. Today, in its location on the undeveloped Dhekelia ranges, the site of Pyla-
Vigla is no longer cultivated and has gained protected status from the Department of Antiquities.

Figure List
Figure 1: Map of Study Area (W. Caraher)
Figure 2: Vigla Survey Area (W. Caraher)
Figure 3: Vigla Geophys (W. Caraher)
Figure 4: Trenches on Vigla (W. Caraher)
Figure 5: Final Plans of Trenches on Vigla (W. Caraher)
Figure 6: EU 2 and EU 9 from east
Figure 7: EU 2
Figure 8: Trench photo
Figure 9: Fortification Map