Home > Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, Survey Archaeology > Preliminary Analysis of Pyla-Koustopetria Archaeological Data or Thinking Out Loud 4

Preliminary Analysis of Pyla-Koustopetria Archaeological Data or Thinking Out Loud 4

In September, I began a series of posts in which I thought out loud about the survey data from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project.  The posts mainly focused on overall ceramic densities across the entire study area.  Over the last two or three weeks, I’ve begun working on the final analysis of the period data from the survey.  To do this, I take the finds data produced by R. Scott Moore and Mara Horowitz and plot is against the survey maps produced in the field by David Pettegrew and myself.  In most cases, this work has confirmed our long held (and argued) perspectives on the distribution of material at our site, but sometimes, bringing finds data together with our survey maps shows patterns that were not entirely apparent on the ground.

While we have dedicated much of our attention to activities along the Pyla-Koutsopetria coastal plain or in the area of the known Bronze Age site of Kokkinokremos, it may be that some important activity is taking place on the coastal ridge running north of the Koutsopetria plain and the very prominent coast height of Vigla.  The main concentration of activity in what we call Zone 4 sits along its southern edge.  The site in this area first appears during the Iron Age.


This image shows the site from the Iron Age to the Hellenistic period.  The blue dots are Iron Age material (1050-475 BC).  The assemblage in the red circle included everything from Classical era terracota figurines to fine wares and kitchen wares and utility wares (amphoras, medium coarse and coarse wares).  The material is highly localized in an area of 25 units or so and does not appear to extend further north. The assemblage from these periods on Vigla (the concentration of material to the southwest of the red circle) is contemporary, but far less robust and diverse.  The activity at this area appears to persist into the later Hellenistic and Early Roman period as well.


In this map, the triangles are Early Roman material, the pentagons are Hellenistic-Early Roman material and the green dots date to the more generic Roman period.  While there is evidence that the activities at the site begin to extend further to the north along the plateau, the main concentration of material is still in the southern most units of along our north to south transect.  Like for earlier periods, the assemblage is reasonably diverse including fine wares, lamp fragments, and a full range of utility wares. 

The most remarkable thing about the site is that it suddenly, within the limits of our chronological resolutions, stops in the Late Roman period.


In this map, the different colored dots are all Late Roman material and, as you can see, there is not much Late Roman activity in the area of the earlier site.  So, the question is what kind of site of sees consistent activity for close to 1200 years and then is suddenly abandoned.  To my mind, there are three options.  First, Late Roman activity does not decline over the study area as a whole.  In fact, the coastal plain becomes the center of unprecedented activity during this period. It may be that the center of settlement shifted from the more protected top of the coastal plateau to the more convenient coastal plain during the relatively peace epoch of Late Antiquity.  Second, the area on the plateau could be a religious sanctuary of some description.  The scholar of Late Antique Christianity in me is drawn to the idea that the site is a long-standing pagan sanctuary abandoned with the growing prominence of Christianity on the island.  Perhaps the very fabric of the sanctuary was quarried for the building of the excavated Early Christian basilica on the plain below.  Finally, it may be that this coastal height served as the local cemetery.  While the diversity of the assemblage at the site hints at habitation or even religious uses (which could include the same material signature as domestic activity), it may be that the main settlement was on the fortified height of Vigla (as our excavations at least hints) and they buried their dead outside the city walls to the north.  The abandonment of burial in this area occurred in Late Antiquity where (I can’t resist) Christian conventions gently resisted burial among pagan ancestors.  At the same time, the persistent sanctity of the long-standing burial ground made it impolitic or even impious to use the space for more mundane activities.  As a result, the area was largely abandoned even as activity along the northern part of the plateau continued.

We do not have any definitive evidence for any of these hypothesis, although ground-penetrating radar transects recorded in 2009 might provide us with some hints once they are analyzed.  At the same time, the clear shift in activity away from this site stands out as one of the most definitive changes in the distribution of material across our site.

  1. Dallas
    March 15, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Interesting. Seems like there is a need for a few more soundings.

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