Home > Archaeology, Cyprus, David Pettegrew, Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project > Even More Experiments in Intensive Pedestrian Survey

Even More Experiments in Intensive Pedestrian Survey

Even more guest-posting brilliance from our esteemed guest blogger, David Pettegrew, the co-director the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project and the 2010 Cyprus Research Fund speaker.  Be sure to check out his posts on TuesdayWednesday, Thursday, and yesterday.

Over the last few days (here and here), we have been discussing the results of an experiment we carried out 2010 in order to assess the relationship between the number of artifacts we see in pedestrian survey and the number actually on the ground.  You can read about the first two phases of these experiments here and here.

Today we consider the kinds of artifacts that we observed during total collection and the sorts of material that made up the surface matrix.  When we set up the experiment, we consciously decided not to collect artifacts via the chronotype sample as we normally do in our pedestrian resurvey.  What crueler thing could one do to the project ceramicist than overwhelm him with 1,000+ surface artifacts? (After all, the logic of sampling is to manage human resources more effectively.) Because we didn’t identify the artifacts from the total collection grid according to chronotype as we did for the survey units, we limited the kinds of comparisons we can make between the pedestrian survey sample and the total collection.

Even still, there were still some things we could do to give us a sense of the kinds of material on the ground, especially their fabric and functional attributes.  How much of the surface assemblage of a high-density unit at Koutsopetria consists of cooking ware, coarse wares, coarse wares with surface treatment like combing, and table wares (slipped or unslipped)?

To address this question in part, we sorted all pottery from each total collection unit into three basic fabric classes: semi-fine and fine ware (whether decorated or not), cooking ware, and medium-coarse and coarse wares (including amphora sherds).  The results below show the count of each of the categories in each of the total collection grid squares and give in parentheses the percentage of that fabric group in terms of the total number of potsherds in the unit.



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Fine ware constitutes 7.6% to 15.4% of the number of potsherds in each subunit; cooking ware only 1.7% to 5.4% of the total number of potsherds; and coarse wares consistently 80.2-87.2% of the overall assemblage.  Unsurprisingly, for a predominantly Late Roman assemblage, the great majority of the sherds are coarse, a small percentage are fine, and tiny percentage are cooking.  The disparity between coarse wares, on the one hand, and fine and cooking wares on the other would have been even greater had we compared weight instead of count, since most fine and cooking ware sherds are thin-walled and small.

We also counted the “parts” of the vessel according to the standard ceramicist categories of rims, bases, handles, shoulders / necks, and body sherds.  Rims represented 2.9-7% of the total sherd count, bases less than 2.2%, handles from 2.2 to 5.3%, neck and shoulders typically less than a percent. Body sherds typically represent over 90% of the surface assemblage.

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Finally, we tabulated the data in a slightly different way, breaking down the surface assemblage for each subunit by both fabric group and part.  The results shown in the table below suggest that this Late Roman assemblage includes for fine wares mainly body sherds (73.8% of fine wares) and rims (19.5%), for cooking ware mainly body sherds (84.5% of cooking wares) and handles (6.9%), and for coarse ware mainly body sherds (92.9% of coarse wares).  
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Coarse ware body sherds make up 79.5% (n=1474) of the total number of sherds (n=1,854) counted for all 4 subunits.  By contrast, fine ware rims make up 2.2% of the total pottery assemblage and cooking ware rims form only .11% of the total pottery assemblage!!!  The 71 fragments of slipped and glazed fine ware (i.e., not including fine ware lacking clear glazing or slip) represent only 3.8% of the total number of potsherds counted (n=1854).  These few black glazed Classical-Hellenistic sherds and red slipped Roman-Late Roman sherds are the typical objects used to provide most of the chronological information for dating archaeological sites but they represent less than 4% of our surface assemblage of this unit at Koutsopetria.
Finally, it is worth asking what percentage of coarse body sherds have surface treatments and decorations like grooving, combing, and ridging — the kinds of surface treatments that usually lead to them being collected in most regional surveys.  To address this question, we counted the coarse sherds for two of the subunits (G1 & G15) with spiral grooving, combing, or wheel ridging.  The 66 sherds represent 12.5% of the 526 coarse body sherds from those subunits and 9.8% of 672 total sherds from those units.  These “diagnostic body sherds” then are more visible than glazed and slipped fine ware but still quite unrepresentative of the surface pottery as a whole.
I suppose our next steps with the results of these experiments are to compare them with 1) the chronotype sample from the broader survey, and 2) the data from subsurface excavated deposits.  I think the interesting results of the experiment certainly justified the time it took to totally collect the subunits and will allow us to understand how close our chronotype sample is to the population of ceramic artifacts on the ground.
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