Home > Late Antiquity, Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, Scott Moore, Survey Archaeology > Provisional Processed Pottery from Pyla-Koutsopetria

Provisional Processed Pottery from Pyla-Koutsopetria

While Scott Moore, Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project’s ceramicist and co-director, handles most of the pottery processing in the field, when it gets back to the U.S., I generally work with the processed pottery in its digital form.  This past few weeks we have generated a provisional database containing almost all the pottery collected from 5 years of intensive survey at Pyla-Koustopetria.  This same database will eventually house the pottery from the excavations last year and from earlier excavations conducted at the site in the 1990s.  With our ceramic data in digital form we are able to conduct queries, transfer it to our GIS (Geographic Information Systems) interface, and even produce the basic structure for our publishable catalogue.

With the inclusion of material collected during the 2007 and 2008 survey season we have produced a sufficiently robust dataset to conduct some basic quantitative analysis.  We have over 18,000 artifacts (not a particularly large number from an intensive survey) collected over the course of our standard intensive survey (with another couple thousand generated through various experimental survey procedures).  Of this group about 40% date to the Roman or Late Roman period.  Particularly prevalent in this assemblage of Late Roman material are finewares which account for over 8% of all Late Roman pottery.  Fine wares are useful because they can generally by associated with a particular production center in the Mediterranean and are distinctive enough to have relatively secure chronologies (thanks in large part to the tireless work of John Hayes whose monumental Late Roman Pottery remains the point of departure for almost any analysis of this class of material). 

One of the advantages of our significant assemblage of Late Roman finewares is that we can compare it sites elsewhere on this island.  The locally produced Cypriot Red Slip (CRS) remains the most common type of Late Roman fineware at the site accounting for about 45% of the material on the site and another type of Late Roman fine ware Phocaean Red Slip (PHW) probably produced in Asia Minor, accounted for close to 30% of the assemblage. The most notable feature of the fine ware at our site, however, is that African Red Slip (ARS), a type of Roman fineware imported from North Africa, accounted for close to 20% of the assemblage.  (The other common Late Roman fine ware, Egyptian Red Slip barely appeared at all.  John Hayes has recently suggested that this type of pottery may represent the final phase in Late Roman pottery imports to the island where Egyptian Red Slips imported in the mid-7th century replaced African Red Slip which had become increasingly difficult to procure do to disruptions in Mediterranean trade at the “end of antiquity”. (see Hayes “Pottery,” in Megaw, Kourion: Excavations in the Episcopal Precinct, 436).  It may be, if this is indeed the case, that our site simply went out of use prior to the period when Egyptian Red Slips were most prevalent). 

The recent publication of the finds from the site of Panayia Ematousa provide an interesting point of comparison.  Panayia-Ematousa is, like Pyla-Koutsopetria, another “ex-urban” site situated 6.5 kilometers north of Kition and probably less then 15 km from Pyla-Koutsopetria.  Unlike our site, Panayia-Ematousa produced very little African Red Slip (only 2% of the Roman Red Slips).  In contrast the most common pottery was Phocaean Ware, followed by Cypriot Red Slip.  The two sites were basically contemporary and seemingly reached their Late Roman peaks in 6th century.  The forms present at both sites (that is the shape of the vessels of the various types) are basically similar.  Panayia-Ematousa likewise produced little Egyptian Red Slip.

The presence of a significant quantity of Phocaean Ware at Panayia-Ematousa argues against the idea that this site was less connected to Mediterranean trade — after all, Phocaean Ware was imported to the island as well.  In fact, the fine ware from Panayia-Ematousa seems to suggest that, at least for fine table wares, the residents of the site were less interested in the locally produced Cypriot Red Slip which is by far the most common type of Late Roman fine ware on the island. In fact, at other rural and ex-urban sites on the island, Cypriot Red Slip is typically the most common type of Late Roman Pottery.

At present the Late Roman pottery from Kition remains unpublished (although we have heard that its publication is imminent), so it is impossible to compare the material from Panayia-Ematousa and Pyla-Koutsopetria to the closest urban center.  The differences between the two assemblages, at least based on our provisional analysis of our assemblage at Pyla-Koutsopetria, is striking.  It would appear that these two nearby and nearly contemporary sites had very different relationships with the pottery available in the local market.  While matters such as function, wealth, and site size (i.e. size of market) might well influence the kinds of material present, the prevalence of ARS at Pyla-Koutsopetria nevertheless appears to be one of its most striking characteristics.  In fact, we might even suggest that the difference in pottery used by residents of Panayia-Ematousa and Pyla-Koutsopetria reflected differences in how they chose to identify themselves.  This is all the more significant considering that Roman fine wares were the kind of elite, imported goods that likely contributed to opportunities for elite display like dining.

Scott Moore is working on the material from a survey conducted around Athienou some 20 km inland from Kition and our site and this material should cast even more light on the patterns of pottery in southeastern Cyprus during Late Antiquity.

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