Plotting Cut Blocks Across Pyla-Koutsopetria
Between 2005 and 2006, the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project documented over 500 features from the Koutsopetria plain. Most of these features were cut blocks of various sizes, material and descriptions as well as a handful of features associated with ancient agricultural installations (bit of an olive press, some andesite mill fragments, et c.). Over the past couple of days, I finally got to analyzing this data beyond simply observing that we have lots of cut blocks. The field team in 2005 and 2006 recorded detailed information regarding the location, size, and in many cases generally descriptions of each block and keyed them into a database that we could integrate with our GIS.
Most of the architectural fragments including cut limestone and gypsum blocks, are concentrated in the immediate Koutsopetria plain where farmers have moved them to stone piles on the edges of the fields. Check out our newest additions (partially edited) to our Omeka Collection: Pyla-Koutsopetria from the Air to get an idea of what these stone piles look like.
The most common type of cut block is made of local limestone and probably quarried on site. The majority of the blocks fall between 0.3 and 0.7 m in length and 0.3 and 0.5 in width. For the blocks where all three dimensions are visible, their volume falls between 0.06 and 0.03 cubic meters. This produced blocks of between 75 kg and 140 kg which would be relatively easily moved for construction. Some blocks, of course, could be much larger exceeding 1 m in length and weighing close to 500 kg. With blocks of this size, there is almost no doubt that some large scale, monumental architecture once stood in the immediate area. Here’s a distribution map. The grey grid in the background is our survey grid and the color of the dots relates to the volume of the stone.
We also documented a significant quantity of cut gypsum block. Since marble did not naturally occur on the island, Cypriots often used gypsum as a substitute in more elaborate buildings. These blocks are generally similar in size to the cut limestone blocks with lengths of around a half a meter and widths of 0.3 meters. The average volume of blocks was similar to that of the cut blocks with only a few blocks exceeding 0.1 cubic meters. There were slightly more smaller blocks owing most likely to the more friable character of gypsum. Most blocks fell between 0.01 and 0.06 cubic meters. Gypsum has a lower density than limestone and the blocks had correspondingly lower weight usually between 25 kg and 140 kg. Many, much smaller fragments of gypsum were scattered across the fields and several very large blocks appeared clustered together. Here’s a map:
Finally, we also discovered a small quantity of marble from across the site. Most of these came from the central area of the Koutsopetria plain embedded in rock piles at the edges of cultivated tracks of land. The marble fragments are small < .30 m in maximum length and relatively thin <.04 m suggesting that all but one marble fragment was revetment or floor slabs. The wide distribution of material perhaps indicates that there were several marble clad buildings on the plain of Koutsopetria even though so little marble survives. Here’s a map:
The next step in analyzing this material is considering its relationship to the re-used blocks found in the excavations at Koutsopetria and the construction techniques used in the fortification wall surrounding Vigla. It certainly seems possible that the majority of cut stone blocks scattered around the Koutsopetria plain came from the easily quarried fortifications at Vigla and perhaps also the extensive walls surrounding the Bronze Age site of Kokkinokremos. Gypsum blocks had fairly limited uses architecturally owing to their lack of strength and value as prestige materials. The gypsum fragments from around the site probably served in specific places in buildings and comparing their sizes to in situ blocks from elsewhere on the island might give us some idea of how they were used.