Home > Archaeology, Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project > Fauna from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Survey

Fauna from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Survey

Over the course of the intensive pedestrian survey at Pyla-Koutsopetria we collected a sample of the faunal material present on the surface of the ground (that is to say the animal bones visible in each unit).  Over the past month, David Reese, one of the leading specialists in faunal remains in an archaeological context examined the material from both our survey and excavation.

While I won’t present all Dr. Reese’s finds here on the blog (that will have to wait for the full, final report), I will give a brief preview of his finds.  The majority of the material from the site was Ovis/Capra (sheep/goat).  My understanding is that the bones of the two animals are basically indistinguishable (in fact, if one could distinguish the two, I am sure Dr. Reese would have!).  The goat and sheep bones likely reflect the more recent past activity at the site which almost certainly involved grazing.  At present the site is under cultivation with cereals – mostly for feed – but this might be the result of the region’s appropriation by the British after independence in the 1950s.  At present our site has relatively restricted access because of the activities at various live-fire ranges in the area.  It is also possible that some grazing continues in the early spring, fall, or winter months when we are not present on the site.  A few of the bones show signs of being butchered and cooked, but it is difficult to know whether this occurred on site – in a possible domestic context – or if these bones represent lunches taken in the fields, rubbish thrown from passing travelers, or even bits of household trash carried out into the fields at some earlier time as composted fertilizer.  The presence of a few worn chicken bones from the fields almost certainly represents meals taken in the field or domestic rubbish.

More evidence for grazing comes from the presence of numerous bones from dogs (canis familiaris).  While we regularly see packs of hunting dogs training across the coastal ridges in the evening hours, the link between dogs and herds of sheep or goats is too close to ignore.

Aside from the dog and sheep/goat bones, there are two objects that really stood out.  First, Dr. Reese identified an eroded part of a bos taurus (cow!) bone on the site.  Since cattle have somewhat different grazing patterns than goats and sheep, this bone suggests that at some point our site may have seen grazing cattle and possible pasture land.

Finally (and most exciting!), Dr. Reese identified a fragment of human skull from one of survey units near the western most extent of our site.  As readers of this blog know, we’ve been struggling to identify the location of a cemetery that served the inhabitants of our diachronic settlements at Vigla and Pyla-Koutsopetria. Cesnola spent some time in the general vicinity of a site that could be ours (relating his description of the place to our side has proven to be almost impossible; for the description of Cesnola see the link below), as he passed back and forth to his summer home at Ormidhia.  His description of a place called Palaeocastro (which is one of the names for our site) included graves which he appears to have excavated.  The fragment of skull identified from our survey was not particularly close to the area that Cesnola appears to be describing.  So, the mystery of the Pyla-Koutsopetria burials continues with any tiny fragment of evidence suggesting that graves or even tombs are present near our site, but lie undiscovered.


  1. Dimitri Nakassis
    August 31, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Bill, when Michael and I went to the Pyla καφενείο an old guy told us that they used to take flocks out to the coastal ridges before the British base appropriated the land.

  2. August 31, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Thanks, man! I assumed as much. That must account for the goat/sheep bones in the survey.

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