Home > Archaeology, Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project > Top Five Mistakes on the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project

Top Five Mistakes on the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project

As another field season comes to a close, it is useful to reflect back on some of our mistakes over the past few years.  I am pleased to say that no mistakes were so significant that archaeological information was lost.  On the other hand, most of these mistakes brought a certain amount of inconvenience to our seasons and set us back in time, energy, and sometimes other resources.

1. Not applying for a single, big grant. Over the past eight seasons, PKAP has been fortunate to be funded by a series of small to mid-sized grants.  The support of numerous organizations not only made our initial fieldwork possible, but also made it possible for us to take advantage of opportunities (like excavation and more robust remote sensing campaigns) that were not present at the project’s onset, bring in collaborators from around the world, and to introduce over 50 students to field archaeology and the island of Cyprus. The downside of relying on small to mid-sized grants is that each fall became a frantic scramble for resources to fund the next season. Each spring, as we waited on the grants, became an exercise in speculative accounting as we produce multiple budgets and plans based on the possible level of funding provided by our outstanding grant applications.  Fortunately, we always received enough support to pursue our most optimistic plans, but the wait (particularly over the last few years as “changes” in the global economy made it difficult to predict funding levels) was excruciating.  Next time we conduct a multi-year archaeological project in the Mediterranean, we will make it contingent upon receiving a multi-year grant.

2. Messing with the Cypriot Bronze Age. While I am not a liberty to go into details about this mistake, I have learned that the Cypriot Bronze Age is not fun nor is it necessarily an open field for inquiry.  It seems best for specialists in Late Antiquity working on a largely historical site, to steer very clear of the Late Bronze Age and other messy pre-historic periods in Cyprus.

3. Identifying an Early Christian basilica on Vigla from resistivity results.  After conducting a substantial campaign of electrical resistivity survey in 2007, we concluded that an Early Christian basilica stood atop the coastal height of Vigla. In fact, our scrutiny of the architecture directed the location of our trenches in 2008.  It only took a few days of excavating to discover that the remains on Vigla were not associated with an Early Christian church, and moreover, were not monumental.  Now it appears that we have a Classical to Hellenistic fortified settlement on the height.  (For more on this, see here and here)

4. Flying PKAP Airship One on a windy day.

5. Conducting a study season without a registrar. At one point this year, I looked over the numerous scholars and students working on PKAP material and could see no order to the chaos.  In past years, our registrar has brought order to chaos and allowed for the smooth movement of material through processing and study.  This year, we proceeded without a registrar – a feat only attempted once before – and the results were terrifying.  Well-labeled (fortunately) artifacts everywhere, forms everywhere, well-labeled (phew!) pottery bags everywhere, scholars and specialists everywhere, and me frantically trying to keep up with various questions and requests on my lap top while attempting to analyze the data.  Fortunately, a long, hot, day in the museum last

There are some honorable mentions to this list: working on Cyprus in late July and August for one year, working on a site in the British Sovereign Area (paperwork on top of paperwork!), waiting for five years before discovering how useful a camp manager was to the project, and leaving too little time each season to wrap up all the odds and ends in a calm and collected way. 

Despite these mistakes, we are pleased with the results of our 8 years of relatively intensive field work and study.  We don’t lose artifacts, we haven’t lost a student (and have had remarkably few “problem” students), and we are well on our way to produce a monograph length study of our work. So, if I am lucky enough to embark on another project like PKAP, I can only hope that it turns out as well.

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