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Vigla at Pyla-Koutsopetria

This past week, I’ve started to write up a formal description and analysis of the fortification on Vigla at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus.  While we were not able to date the walls precisely, despite excavating several sections, it seems most likely that fortifications date to the Hellenistic period.  The settlement at the site appears to date earlier with Iron Age and Classical material present.  Moreover, excavations in 2008 revealed that the fortification wall cut through an earlier building at the site.

The site itself does not appear in any textual sources for the island, and it clearly lacked any documented civic status.  As a result, Vigla represents another example of a rural fortified site that stands outside the main narrative of the island’s history.  From the start, we have speculated that the site at Vigla could be a mercenary garrison camp, built quickly for a particular group of Ptolemeic mercenaries stationed on the island during the 3rd or 4th century BC.  The site could also represent a refuge for a local population whose position so near the coast would have exposed them to possible attach during the unsettled Hellenistic period. Scholars have offered similar explanations for similar rural fortifications from Greece.

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The body of rural fortifications in Cyprus is far smaller.  Claire Balandier in her dissertation (and a series of articles in the RDAC in 2000, 2002, and 2003 and elsewhere) has collected evidence for just a handful of rural fortification on the same scale of the fortifications at Vigla.  The most notable among these rural fortified sites is Paleocastro on the Kormakiti peninsula in Kyrenia district (in the North).  The Italians documented the site over several campaigns in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a project focusing on the landscape of the Kormakiti peninsula near Ayia Irini (the fortification at Paleocastro might be associated with the ancient anchorage of Melabron).  Work was interrupted by the invasion of 1974, but preliminary results were published, including a good plan, is RIASA 19/20 (1972/73), 7-120.

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The site is  larger than the fortified area of Vigla, but situated in a similar way.  The fortified settlement stands on a slight rise over the coast and has a gate on its inland side protected by towers.  Vigla stands on a more prominent height (check out Vigla in gigapan), overlooks a likely ancient harbor, and is accessed through its more highly fortified inland side.  The settlement at Paleocastro shows signs of Archaic or Classical origins and then disappears by the 2nd century AD.  The fortification wall appear to be Hellenistic.

Stay tuned for more work to document, contextualize, and understand Vigla.

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