Archive for the ‘Archaeology’ Category

Christians in Roman Space

November 15, 2010 Leave a comment

On the strength of a BMCR review, I spent the last few days reading Laura Salah Nasrallah’s Christian Responses to Roman Art and Architecture. (Cambridge 2010).  The book juxtaposes the works of several 2nd c. Christian “apologists” (Tatian, Justin, Athenagoras, and Clement of Alexandria) and the space of the Roman empire.  To do this, she parallels the texts with specific places within the Roman world (e.g. the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias or the Trajans forum) or specific works of art (e.g. statues of Commodus as Herakles or the Aphrodite of Knidos).  Both the texts, the space, and the works of art themselves fall significantly outside my area of expertise.  The approach, on the other hand, which assumes that texts are no more or nor less products of the same culture that produced understandable spaces and statues within the Roman world represents a significant interest to me.

In particular, I was intrigued by how Nasrallah used these texts as evidence for Christian response to the built environment of the Roman world.  Of course, this response was, to a certain extent, constructed by the author’s decision to juxtapose particular texts with particular environments (see the BMCR review for this observation), but, at the same time, the move to compare texts and monuments in a way that shed light on critical readings of built space was, to me at least, novel.  The alienated (or at least conflicted) posture of figures like Tatian when positioned opposite the imperial rhetoric of the Sebasteion is particular striking and reminds me of John Clarke’s more speculative approach to the reading of Trajan’s column in his Art in the lives of Ordinary Romans (Berkeley 2003) or some of the essays in J. Elsner’s Roman Eyes (Princeton 2007).

My impression is that Nasrallah’s use of texts was a convenient concession to traditional practices in art and architectural history and archaeology of the Classical World that continues to imagine texts as the point of departure for rigorous analysis of meaning and space.  When pushed a step further to deal exclusively with built environments in places uninformed by robust textual sources, the assumption that spaces can accommodate a wide range of viewers (including those bent on resisting, subverting, or even co-opting “intended messages”) becomes decidedly more foggy.  As the BMCR review noted, even Nasrallah moves cautiously in many cases when she enters into relationship between the act of reading a text and the act of reading a space or monument; the author is more willing to leave the texts juxtaposed than to bring out opportunities for mutual critique.

In my recent work on the monumental spaces of Justinianic Corinth (it is, on my blog, all about me, of course), I’ve had to confront a similar tension not between texts, but between monuments.  I shared Nasrallah’s assumption that it is possible to recover the resistance and critique of the built environment through juxtaposing different types of texts; for Corinth, however, these texts are not the literary (or even really epigraphical kind), but other roughly contemporary monuments.  Like Nasrallah and her authors, I have done what I can to understand the act of building as a response to particular (and maybe recoverable) activities within the physical environment. But this reading of the relationship between buildings captures only one response within a monumentalized discourse in the landscape. The ongoing dialog between experiences across the landscape continuously reinscribed monumental places with meanings and presented opportunities for resistance. The decision whether to resist, to critique, or to accept the meanings produced through the productive juxtaposition of places in the landscape returns agency to the viewer and undermines the power traditionally located in imperialist policies.

Nasrallah’s book provides a model for discerning the act of viewing within the Roman empire by expanding the notion of place to include texts which she demonstrates function according to a similar logic as monuments in the landscape.  By resisting the urge to offer definitive or rigid relationships between various more or less contemporary spaces within the ancient world, she resists the temptation to extend a valuable analysis of ways of viewing to specific acts of viewing.  In doing so, she both unpacks the act of viewing (and responding to) ancient art and architecture, and allows it to persist as an essentially ambiguous phenomenon resistant to even our most deeply positivist desire to essentialize.


Byzantine Pottery from Sagalassos

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

I was pretty surprise to see an article entitled “Middle-Late Byzantine Pottery from Sagalassos: Typo-Chronology and Sociocultural Interpretation” in the very recent Hesperia (A.K. Vionis, J. Poblome, B. De Cupere, M. Waelkens, Hesperia 79 (2010), 423-464).  It’s not so much that the subject matter is late, but that the site of Sagalassos is a Belgian project in Turkey rather than an American project in Greece.  As some of my more observant friends pointed out, Hesperia has published the results of project from Albania, so maybe this should not have caught be so off guard.  But it did and it indicates to me that Hesperia is continuing to expand its purview to include the wider world of Mediterranean archaeology. Hooray!

The article on the Middle-Late Byzantine material from Sagalassos is pretty cool as well.  The main focus of the article is on a series of 12th-13th century layers from the Alexander Hill at the site of Sagalassos.  Over three seasons of excavation, the excavators uncovered the remains of a “heavily burned” destruction layer containing the remains of a short-lived occupation containing a significant and robust quantity of 12th-13th century Byzantine pottery.  This layer appears to represent the final phase of activity on this dramatic hill overlooking the ancient site of Sagalassos.  Early occupation on the hill included a 5th-6th century basilica that was almost completely removed and a later “refuge” of some description with a fortification wall and a substantial cistern.  Apparently the church was almost completely dismantled for the construction of the later refuge. The final destruction layer, which seems to represent the final layer of occupation, may represent an effort to dismantle the refuge to prevent it from being used again.

While the site history of the Alexander Hill is pretty interesting (particularly the dismantling of the church), the real meat of the article is in the analysis of the ceramic assemblage from the final layer.  While I would like to have understood the sampling method the produced the assemblage, the authors nevertheless conduct a rigorous and thorough examination of the material and take into account both “common ware” (which we would call medium coarse, coarse, and kitchen/cooking ware in chronotype terminology) and glazed table wares (fine and and semi-fine wares in our terminology).  Some of the glazed wares were repaired indicating that the objects had significant value to their owners.  The presence of repaired pots in an assemblage associated with the destruction of the site, however, suggests (to me at least) that these vessels were either discarded by the last occupants of the refuge or brought to the site by work crews commissioned to destroy or salvage the remains of the site. I wish the article had made considered more thoroughly the formation processes at play in the creation of the assemblage from the burned layer including the possible nature of activities at the final occupation phase of the site.  If these materials were left by work crews (like the material associated with the final phase of activity at Kourion), then the diet, ceramics used, and social standing of the individuals could suggest a different assemblage from that left behind by a family.

Despite the origin of the pottery in a layer associated with the site’s destruction and short term occupation, they regard the material as sufficient diverse to qualify as a use assemblage and, therefore, suitable for making larger arguments for the nature of Byzantine cooking practices, diet, and the circulation of Byzantine glazed pottery and utility ware forms.  This was all supported by residue analysis of individual vessels and the quantitative analysis of the entire assemblage.  Apparently the individuals at Sagalassos ate more beef and game than their Late Roman predecessors (who preferred lamb and goat).  Pretty neat stuff.

The article places the material from the assemblage at Sagalassos in the context of the Byzantine Eastern Mediterranean and it will be really useful as we look to document a site with a similar history at Polis in Cyprus.  The material present at Sagalassos has comparanda both on Cyprus and, unsurprisingly, at Corinth in Greece where the study of Byzantine pottery has long held pride of place.  The careful publication of an assemblage from a site like Sagalassos expands the base of evidence for the further study of Byzantine pottery.  The appearance of an article like this in Hesperia should show scholars that there are high-quality journals prepared and willing to publish similar papers.

P.S. Lest you think that I’m just a blogger, you’ll notice that David Pettegrew, Sarah James, and I also have an article in this volume: “Towers and Fortifications at Vayia in the Southeast Corinthia,” Hesperia 79 (2010), 385-415.

Artifact Level Analysis and Places of History

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working with David Pettegrew to finish writing the analysis of the survey data from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project (PKAP).  Followers of this blog know that this work is a long a term project and involves challenges both on the level of analysis but also organization and description.  In other words, we’ve been working to figure out both how to interpret our survey results, but also how do we organize and describe this data in way that is useful to scholars who are likely to ask different questions from the one’s that our survey set out to consider.

The biggest challenge is moving from the highly granular, artifact level analysis of individual groups of pot sherds to the level of historical time and space.  After all, very few important things happened in the space of a pot sherd or in a time framed absolutely by the life-span or production cycle of an individual vessel.  It is essential to aggregate sherds, space, and time in order to produce historical arguments.  The chronological ranges for artifacts through time depend, in particular, on our understanding of ceramic typologies based on the fabric, shape, and in some cases decoration.  These the chronology assigned to these various typologies are not necessarily meaningful in a historical sense and can be quite individualize to particular objects.

In other words, artifact level analysis is separate from the process of interpreting artifacts across the survey area as chronologically and historically meaningful groups.  Part of the interpretive process involves grouping artifacts together into more or less contemporary groups of object.  This process involves judgement on our part and cannot be applied in the same way across the entire assemblage.

As an example, our analysis of material representing activity across our site from the Classical to Hellenistic (BC 475 to BC 100) periods involves artifacts dated to at least 8 different, overlapping chronological ranges: Archaic-Classical, Archaic-Hellenistic, Classical, Classical-Hellenistic, Classical-Roman, Hellenistic, Hellenistic-Early Roman, and Protogeometric-Hellenistic.  In contrast, our analysis of activities on our site from the Roman period involves artifacts dated to three chronological ranges: Roman, Early Roman, and Late Roman.  Our ceramicist established the date ranges for individual artifacts largely based upon dates established through stratigraphic excavation and completely independent from our interpretation of the site as a whole.  It is common for individual classes of artifacts to receive have different chronological ranges. A sherd from a cooking ware pot might represent a vessel-type produced over a 500 year periods (say, any time during the Classical-Hellenistic period), whereas a fragment of fine ware might derive from a vessel produced during a 4 or 5 decade span of time (say, the early 4th century).  Each of the objects receives a different date and chronological range when documented in the survey area. As a very general rule, utility wares tend to be produced over longer spans of time than fine and table wares, but this has no necessary impact on how and when they were used.

The process of interpreting the artifacts documented by our ceramicist involves us aggregating these objects into chronologically, functionally, and spatially meaningful groups.  Past human activities took place in particular spaces and made use of object produced at different times and for different functions. To produce a picture of what happened in the past at our site that has meaning within these human terms, it is necessary to group together material with different date ranges into assemblages that have meaning in human terms.

For example, here are various maps showing some of the periods aggregated to produce our analysis of the Classical to Hellenistic period at our site:

NewImage.jpgArchaic-Classical Period

NewImage.jpgClassical Period

NewImage.jpgClassical-Hellenistic Period

NewImage.jpgClassical-Roman Period

NewImage.jpgHellenistic Period

NewImage.jpgHellenistic-Early Roman Period

To understand trends at our site from Classical to Hellenistic period, the data contained in each of these maps must be analyzed together.  Occupants at our site may have used coarse ware datable only to the Classical-Roman period alongside table wares dated more narrowly to the Classical period.  The Classical period table ware may have represented a households investment in public display, the same household may have stored their agricultural wealth in a series of amphoras that have forms and fabrics used for over 500 years.  To establish the potential spatial relationship between these two activities in an archaeological setting, it is necessary to plot artifacts assigned to different chronological ranges across our site in order to produce assemblages that reflect historical activities.

This task is central to the analysis of artifact level survey data and is the key interpretive move in mediating between the results of archaeological work and historical events in the past.  Our goal as we work to prepare this kind of analysis for publication is to keep this interpretative move as transparent as possible.  Transparency, while sometimes tedious for the reader, opens our analysis for critique on both evidentiary and methodological grounds and reinforced the idea that archaeologists produce the landscape that they interpret.

A Comparison Between a Survey Assemblage and an Excavation Assemblage

November 2, 2010 Leave a comment

For the past few months, David Pettegrew and I have been “publishing” the preliminary results of some experimental analysis conducted over the past year at the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project on Cyprus.  As part of the experimental component to our project we were interested in documenting the relationship between the surface assemblage and the assemblage of material produced by excxavation

The archaeological fieldwork conducted on the elevated height of Vigla provided us with an opportunity to compare assemblages produced by intensive pedestrian survey and the excavation of a trench in the survey area.

Longstanding critiques of survey have suggested that the relationship between the surface assemblage and the subsurface material is too problematic for survey to be a technique used to produce a comprehensive view of the landscape. While it is true that there are more variables in the formation processes that impact the creation of a surface assemblage, we should be aware of the potential for a false dichotomy. Excavated assemblages are every bit as much a product of formation processes as those on the surface and as a result, we always have to temper our interpretation of past events with the understanding of the archaeological record as the product of a whole range of physical and cultural transformations. The goal of this comparison then is not to test the surface assemblage against the subsurface material, but rather to suggest that their correspondence indicates that the area may have endured similar archaeological processes.

As with all of our experimental units, the comparison is influenced by significant differences in the spatial comparison between the two sample areas. The surface area of our trench EU 8 represented only 6 sq meters; The two survey units 500 and 500.1 combined to covere over 6000 sq m. Any comparison of area, however, is problematic; the trench had volume and the relatively two-dimensional surface of the survey area did not.


The excavation unit produced significantly more ceramic material. The excavation unit produced over 4000 artifacts. By comparison, we counted anywhere from 366 to close to 1000 artifacts from our survey of various areas on the top of Vigla (depending on surface conditions and the number of walkers available), and these samples allowed us to estimate an overall artifact density of between 15,000 – 11,000 artifacts per ha. These are astronomical densities by any reckoning.

While we counted every artifact visible in our 20% sample of the surface, we collected artifacts using the chronotype sampling strategy which required us only to collect each unique type of sherd from each swath.  Using this technique in two campaigns of field walking on Vigla, we collected 963 artifacts with a weight of 27.6 kg.  In contrast, we collected and analyzed every artifact from the excavation area and this resulted in over 4000 artifacts, but this assemblage weighed less than 10 kgs more (37.0 kg) than the assemblage collected from survey.

The nature of the chronotype sampling method used in the survey makes it difficult to find a metric to compare the quantity of material collected from the survey against the quantity of material collected from excavated contexts. The key point for evaluating the correspondence between the two assemblages is not necessarily the quantities of material but rather the presence or absence of material indicating particular activity, periods, or material types present in the area.

Comparing the period date between the two collection strategies reveals that the survey collection produced more chronotype period categories (16 compared to 14) and nine of the periods represented in the survey assemblage were also represented in the excavation assemblage. In general, the survey material represented a longer chronological range with material from later periods present on the surface including material from the Late Roman, Medieval-Modern, and Modern periods. The excavated area, in contrast, produced more material from narrower periods and at least one object from a period earlier than those represented in the survey, a sherd potentially dating to the Bronze Age (for more on broad and narrow periods, see here). This artifact appears to pre-date the earliest phases of architecture present in our trenches and may not represent a past activity on the site. In general, the material from both the survey and the excavation overlap, but the excavation material offered slightly more chronological resolution than the material from the survey.

The diversity of chronological periods in the survey material would appear to extend to the chronotypes represented in each unit. The excavation produced 54 chronotypes, while the survey unit produced 57. There are 30 overlapping chronotypes between the two collection methods. While the different sampling techniques make it difficult to compare the assemblages in a meaningful way, the quantity of material from each area nevertheless provides a very basic matrix for comparing the relative quantity of various types of material from each unit. The survey and excavation both produce a significant number of artifacts from the three rather general chronotypes: ‘Coarse ware, ancient historic’, ‘medium coarse ware ancient historic’, ‘kitchen ware ancient historic’.  The excavation also produced a significant proportion of material from two additional chronotype that were poorly represented in the surface assemblage: ‘animal bone’ and ‘fineware, Hellenistic-Roman, Early’ which made up 6.6% and 5.5% of the excavated material respectively, but less than 1% of the material from the survey. The absence of animal bone on the surface of the ground could be an issue with visibility (white and tan bones do not stand out as well against the buff colored soil) and certainly preservation. 

It is notably harder to compare the potential range of activities present in the area. The chronotype method of collection privileges larger, better preserved sherds (walkers will often discard small or poorly preserved sherds if they find larger examples of the same chronotype). It also tends to under represent very common chronotypes in proportion to the total assemblage. In other words, there are fewer examples of chronotypes such as “medium coarse body sherd, ancient historic” in the survey sample in part because field walkers were instructed not collect multiple examples of this very common type of artifact. In the excavation, excavators collected every example of a “medium coarse body sherd ancient-historic” causing sherds of this type to make up a larger proportion of the total assemblage.

This tendency can be seen in the relative size of artifacts collected from the survey and excavation. From the survey, the collected artifacts were much larger and this probably reflects both our field walkers’ tendency to select larger sherds more frequently than smaller sherds for collection and the difficulty seeing the smallest sherds on the ground from a standing posture. These two tendencies combined to produce an average survey artifact weight almost 30 g as compared to the average size of an excavation sherd that was under 9 g.

The fabric groups present show some significant differences in the assemblage that we can largely trace to different sampling strategies. The survey unit preserved more coarse ware
(47%) whereas the majority of material from the excavated unit was medium coarse ware. The weight of the two fabric groups as a percent of the total assemblage sheds more light on the situation. Medium Coarse wares from the excavation represented 53% by volume, but only 22% of the assemblage by weight. In fact, the average weight of a medium coarse ware sherd is less than 4 grams. In other words, many of the medium coarse fragments of pottery from the excavation are quite small, and these sherds are the most likely to be overlooked during survey. Cooking/kitchen ware, coarse ware, and amphora represented the other significant parts of the excavation assemblage. As the chart below indicates the percentage of weight is significantly different from the proportions determined by counts. In weight amphora and coarse wares combine to make up the majority of material.


The material from survey shows different proportion, but these proportions are significantly biased by our sampling technique that suppressed the collection of redundant artifacts.


Coarse ware is the most common fabric group by quantity and makes up the majority of material by weight. Amphora sherds, which tended to be handles or very large body sherds, represent a massive quantity by weight, but significantly lower percentage by quantity. The opposite is true of medium coarse ware and kitchen/cooking ware.

Similar tendencies are visible from rim-base-handle-sherd analysis (for more on R-B-H-S Analysis, see here). 


The results of this comparison suggest that for the height of Vigla the most major differences between the assemblage produced by survey and that produced by excavation are tied to the different sampling strategies used in these different contexts. At the same time, the basic patterns present in the survey assemblage were also present in the assemblage from the excavation.  The presence of material from the Classical and Hellenistic period, the presence of fine ware, kitchen/cooking ware, and utility wares, and the almost complete absence of earlier material allows us to argue that the site was first occupied in the Archaic to Classical period, saw domestic activities, and then was used less intensively in later periods.  This close correlation of survey and excavation assemblages reflects, in part, the stability of the soils on Vigla and the relative lack of erosion, on the one hand, and the lack of intensive activity during later periods, on the other.  In other words, the surface assemblage and excavation assemblage enjoyed similar sets of formation processes which produced similar assemblages. 

Hesperia, Offprints, and the American School

October 26, 2010 7 comments

Yesterday I had one of those little thought-provoking coincidences that make you wonder about how things could be done better.

At 11:44 am I got an email from the American School of Classical Studies publication office concerning our soon-to-be-published article on fortification around Ano Vayia.  Our article will appear in the next issue of the American School’s journal, Hesperia. The email asked us where we would like our 50 complimentary offprints sent and whether we wanted to purchase 50 more for $150. Hesperia offprints are really lovely things. They are stapled, on high quality paper, impeccably edited, stylish in design, and include a nice, glossy cover.  In short, the $150 price for 50 does not seem unreasonable.

At 1:45 pm that same day I received a form-email from Jack Davis, the Director of the American School of Classical Studies. It was their annual fund-raising email.  The American School of Classical Studies at Athens is one of my favorite things in the world.  The institution played a key role in anything that is good about my professional development and no matter how long I am away, still has the feeling of a home-away-from-home. I have benefited three times over from their generous fellowships and these fellowships have led to my dissertation and numerous publications. I have come to appreciation the American School for its awkward and paradoxical blend of things traditional and things contemporary and “modern”. By not shying away from some of the most traditional aspects of a classical education (e.g. the flavor of the Grand Tour that pervades the Regular Program), the School encourages students to reflect on the practices and institutions that have created the disciplines of Classics, Classical Archaeology, Ancient History, et c.  Because of these things, I am in the habit of giving money to the American School.  I can’t give much as an Assistant Professor at a state school in North Dakota, but I give my proverbial widow’s mite.

Back to the coincidence: In the same day, within hours, the same institution that was asking for money also offered me that very day something for free.  This got me to think: what if we as contributors to Hesperia just turned down our offprints?  Now, I recognize that the circulation of offprints continues to play a small role in the “academic gift economy”.  But, as I began to try to make a mental list of people to whom I’d like to send offprints, I was counting far fewer than 50 individuals.  Moreover, many of the people on that list would probably just as soon have a digital offprint (a handsomely formatted .pdf file) suitably disgraced with some personal note of thanks. The digital offprints of Hesperia are every bit as high quality as the print offprints with good resolution on photographs and searchable text.  Moreover, of the handful of people to whom I’d send offprints, almost all of them have access to Hesperia.  Less than a month ago I had a conversation with a resolutely “olde skool” American School type and offered to send him an offprint of my forthcoming article. He smiled, thanked me, and said, that he subscribes to Hesperia. (I knew this, of course, but apparently even among the “olde skool” the ritual component of offprint exchange had fallen into disuse.)

All the same, I can anticipate some people saying that some individuals still keep paper offprint files and some of our European colleagues take the circulation of paper offprints quite seriously and some offprints serve as valuable contributions to small, highly specialized and underfunded libraries (say at the local office of the archaeological service).  The high quality of a Hesperia offprint makes them almost something of intrinsic value.

On the other hand, I am pretty sure (although I won’t admit to doing this) that we can still print out a copy of a Hesperia article, scrawl some heartfelt note of thanks of the first page, and present it to a colleague as a token of thanks.  Maybe this violates copyright?  I’m really not sure, but I can hardly imagine this to be the kind of practice that the International Copyright Police would enforce, and it would guess that it would be possible for Hesperia to give authors permission to reproduce a certain number of copies of their own articles. (Although it would be awesome to be approached by a neatly dressed Nigerian man outside the Agora in Athens with a stack of slightly blurry photocopied Hesperia offprints…).

One more thing, Hesperia offers to let us purchase another 50 offprints for $150. Since Hesperia articles tend toward the long side, I assume that this price represents the average cost of printing 50 offprints, perhaps with some small compensation of watering down the copyright (in other words, perhaps they factor in that some people will receive an offprint and will decide not to purchase the journal, but I can’t imagine that this represents a very large group).  Last year, Hesperia published 17 articles and if $150 is the average cost of a run of offprints, then they spent about $2550 on offprints.

If every contributor over a year just said, politely, no thank you to offprints from Hesperia, we could, in effect, give the American School Publication Office a gift of $2500. I suspect that each of us would have to turn down all of our offprints because printing enjoys really significant economies of scale, and it seems fair to assume that these economies are realized at 50 copies of each article. I know some contributors will still want to “kick it olde skool” and will want to have their shinny Hesperia offprints, but I also suspect that, if given the option explicitly, a percentage of hipper, new skool contributors would turn ours down.  And I’d like to think that Hesperia and the American School would appreciate this little gift.

David Pettegrew’s Setting Stage for St. Paul’s Corinth Available as Podcast or Streaming Video

October 25, 2010 1 comment

For those of you who could not make it to the David Pettegrew’s 2nd Annual Cyprus Research Fund Lecture, fear not!  We have made David’s lecture available as both a downloadable podcast and as a streaming video.

Here’s the podcast.

Here’s the video.

David’s two days on campus were really exciting.  Not only did he speak to over 50 faculty,undergraduates, graduate students, and members of the community on the Thursday afternoon talk, but he also contributed to the history department’s “brown bag” lecture series on Friday.  At his Friday talk, he presented a great primer to intensive survey archaeology and discussed the ideas of “source criticism” as applied to ancient material culture.  Finally, David took a couple of hours and read Latin with some of our graduate students and undergraduates at our weekly “Latin Friday Morning” reading group.

It is always gratifying to see how much interest there is in the Ancient Mediterranean at the University of North Dakota.  So, if you enjoyed the lecture with here at UND, thanks for coming out! And if you enjoy the lecture via the streaming video or podcast, thanks for listening!  I also should thank Chad Bushy and Caleb Holthusen from UND’s Center for Instructional and Learning Technologies office for not only preparing the video and podcasts, but trouble shooting during the live webcast.

And, finally, thanks to David Pettegrew for agreeing to spend his fall break with us at the University of North Dakota. For more on his research and the Roman and Late Roman Corinthia, check out his blog Corinthian Matters.

Broad Period Artifacts and Survey Analysis: Quantifying what you don’t know

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment

By far the most vexing issues facing most survey projects is the analysis of artifacts datable only to very broad periods of time (a point I brought up in my blog post from last week).  In the work of the Pyla-Koustopetria Archaeological Project, these artifacts are the equivalent to objects of “unknown date” from other survey projects.  The chronotype identification system required our ceramicist to date each artifact even if these dates are exceedingly broad.  As a result, we have significant quantities of artifacts dated to periods that exceed 1000 years in length. These broad periods tend to represent two types of artifacts. 

  1. Artifacts that do not fit into any known typology such as body sherds without particularly characteristic marks, fabrics, or shapes.
  2. Artifact types that remained in use for long periods of time.  This is most often the case with various kinds of coarse and medium coarse utilities wares probably produced from local fabrics.

In some cases, the fabrics or shapes can tell use enough to allow us to group the artifact into a relatively well-defined, yet still exceedingly broad, date range.  For example, the most common period for an artifact dated to a broad period is “Ancient Historic”.  This is a date range that extends across the entire period of historical antiquity on the island of Cyprus: 750 BC – AD 750.  Almost all of these sherds (89%) are body sherds. The artifacts datable to this period appear over 77% of the total area of our survey and in 84% of the units where artifacts occur.  Statistically, the distribution of “Ancient Historic” artifacts correlates more closely to the overall artifact densities across the entire study area than any other period, broad or narrow (the correlation is .674).  This is particularly significant because artifact counts and the number of artifacts assigned to a particular period are independent variables: our artifact counts are based on the total number of artifacts visible on the ground according to clicker counts and the number artifacts dated to a particular period is a subset of the number of artifacts sampled from the units.  Finally, the fabric types present in Ancient-Historic period more or less parallel the fabric groups present in narrower, better-known, or at least more clearly defined periods (e.g. Classical or Classical-Hellenistic). For the Koutsopetria plain, for example, “Ancient Historic” material appears as coarse ware, medium coarse ware, and kitchen/cooking ware which finds rough parallels with the groups of material present from other periods and the general functional character of the area (for those of you keeping track at home, we call the Koutsopetria plain Zone 1)


Other broad periods from our site represent small quantities of obscure material that stands outside traditional typologies.  For example, there are only two sherds assigned to two chronotypes dated to the Ceramic Age (a Red Micaceous Pithos and coarse ware). Only four sherds assigned to four chronotypes received the generic Ancient date (Ancient Lekane, fineware, kitchen ware, medium coarse ware). Only one chronotype, amphoras, receive the designation Post-Prehistoric.

In old days of survey, sherds dated to broad periods tended to be neglected either at the analysis phase, or more commonly at the sampling and collection phase.  The vast majority of broad period sherds are body sherds (85%) and most of these would not appear to be diagnostic. As a result many traditional collection strategies that privileged diagnostic sherds (feature sherds with distinct marks, rims, handles, bases) would have overlooked broad period material. More recent work has at least assigned the designation of “unknown date” to these broad period artifacts, but rarely do they appear documented in the survey publication.

This material is difficult to correlate with past human activities. At best, it reinforces the notion that certain types of productive practices may have endured for long periods of time without much in the way of visible changing.  It suggests that certain vessel shapes, fabrics, and pottery categories may have continued to serve basic functions within the community, the household, and the economy for long periods of time as well. In Braudelian terms, the apparently long, slow, and relatively unchanging character of such a large part of our ceramic assemblage represents the slow swells of the sea.  The more closely dated and rapidly changing character of fine wares or even the more diagnostic parts of the vessel , for example, which tend to allow us to produce our narrow period assemblages, show the more fickle and rapidly changing nature of ancient ceramic habits.

The value then of our effort to understand the distribution and character of artifacts datable to broad periods from PKAP is that they give us a real measure of how much we do not know about material from our survey area.  And at the same time, reveal that much of the most basic practices typical of the ancient world likewise continues to elude our grasp.