The PKAP field season wrapped up this weekend, culminating (as it typically does) in a flurry of last minute activities (paperwork, administrative stuff, museum organization, beard shaving, etc.). Here are some ruminations on our work this year.
1. Logistics. We work on one of the sovereign British bases on the island, Dhekeleia (the other is Akrotiri). As a result, we must acquire permission not only from the Department of Antiquities but also the base authorities. As long as they know we’re coming, this isn’t a problem (the year they didn’t know, it was). They support our work and are generally interested in it (they gave the project some free aerial photos, e.g.). But our site sits within the base’s firing ranges, so we can only work when the range is out of use. The schedule varies, but generally it’s in use from 7am until 1pm or so during weekdays, so we conduct a majority of our field work in the afternoon and on Saturday. But our field season overlapped this year with an important firing contest that kept members of the base on the ranges well into the evening. Effectively, we lost a week of excavation time and had to make up for it with 12 hour field days.
2. But we managed. This year we excavated on the Vigla ridge, the Hellenistic component of our site.
Looking west, across the Vigla ridge toward Cape Pyla
The material culture dates, predominantly, to the late 4th and 3rd centuries BC (with two phases). Most of the structures are, in the main, domestic, built of mudbrick atop stone socles with timber roofs. But the entire settlement was also encircled by a sizable–and quite fancy–fortification wall. It seems likely that Vigla was a garrison community dating to the years after Alexander the Great, when Cyprus was betwixt and between various successor kings and, afterward, ruled by a strategos (military governor). Numerous lead sling pellets have been found at the site (by us and looters), along with other weapons (spear points, etc.).
This year we wanted to get a better sense of the extent of the settlement within the wall and trenches were placed farther west and north to do so. The trenches were laid based on the results of geophysical survey some years ago. They confirmed these results and uncovered additional evidence of occupation here that aligns well with previous excavated areas.
Excavation Units 14 and 15; 3 x 2m and 2 x 2m soundings
Another trench was placed over the northern fortification wall, close to a looter’s trench dug in 2010 that uncovered an especially well preserved section of the wall. We hoped to clarify its chronology, which to date has proven difficult. But through some level of once-in-a-lifetime luck we managed to place the 4 x 3m trench directly over a lined pit that contained one of the largest deposits of Hellenistic ceramics on the entire island.
Excavation Unit 16, before excavation
The deposit was encased under the tumble of the wall in extremely loose, sandy soil–it was like digging away a beach. The ceramic assemblage ran the gamut: storage vessels, coarse ware, kitchen ware, fine ware, and lamps. In addition to the ceramic assemblage, the deposit contained numerous fragments of stone vessels, some of which preserved painted decoration, animal bones, fragments of flooring, mortar, pockets of charcoal flecks, large, nicely preserved shells, and some metal objects. It seems likely that this deposit was placed here during a clean up episode at the site, after either phase 1 or 2 (the assemblages are so similar that rapid reoccupation seems likely; both seem to have ended by violent destruction, which makes it nearly impossible to differentiate here).
A typical day excavating this deposit. Note the Crowley ware in the bucket in the foreground
Coins keep morale up
Wee vessels excite supervisors
This deposit will give us a much firmer idea of the range of social, economic and daily activities at the site, as well as its place in broader eastern Mediterranean network of exchange. Ultimately, it seems likely that fieldwork on Vigla is now finished, and the project will move toward studying all of this material and publishing it fully. Of course, there’s another component to the site–the late Roman town on the plain below:
4. Finally, none of our work would have been possible without a group of committed undergraduate students and volunteers. I’m thankful to all of them, but especially to my group in EU 16, Kaylee Schofield, Tim Hampton, Steve Kozuhowski, and my wife, Liz (who keeps scarps like a pro and removes dirt in a nearly mechanized fashion). They were hard working, committed to the trench’s research goals, and were great company throughout the field season.