Tag Archives: Cyprus

Archaeological Overlap

Any archaeological field school invariably draws in a cross section of students who are not directly working toward receiving a degree in archaeology. For a truly rounded education in the arts and sciences, students end up taking a cross-section of classes for a variety of reasons. A couple days ago when the slight 35 kilometer/hour breeze came to a lull at the Vigla Site in Cyprus (allowing the microphone to pick up the audio), I asked my team of undergraduate students brought in from Messiah College to think how undergraduate disciplinary training in non-archaeological fields might be applied to the archaeological process that they were doing right then and there.

I posed the question, and they had 15 minutes to think of a response. This is how it played out. I was very satisfied with the results, as the students worked with the data emerging from the field and excavation unit, and also explored how this influenced them personally (back in the day, we used to refer to this as building character).

The first is Danielle King, an education major…

The second is Carrie Bisciotti, a philosophy major, who discusses theories laid out by Dr. Robin Collins, and how these theories might be applied to thinking of evil as inherent to virtue-building processes (is Carrie suggesting that my trench supervisory skills were at first perceived as evil to her, but then looked at another way, perhaps as the anvil and hammer upon which virtue is built?)…

The third is David Crout, a history major who discusses epistemology, real-time…


Earth Homes, Mud Brick and Ancient Engineering

A couple points about this short video clip below, taken on June 1, 2012 at the Vigla site (dated to roughly 3rd century BC) on Cyprus. The first point is that it, the video, captures the A/V of an archaeological trowel at work. The video doesn’t capture the essence of the meteorology and atmosphere, though, which on the hottest and most humid days induces 21st century archaeologists to ponder what a 12th-century crusader thought when arriving on the scene in full battle regalia (“Chain mail in this heat? Yeah, I think I’ll crusade up to the North Pole instead…”). Then the thoughts drift to how some of those knights returned home to contemplate existence and play chess with death (or life, depending on one’s interpretation).

The up-close trowel shot also demonstrates what the majority of archaeological fieldwork is like: one scrape after another, and how this requires archaeology attentiveness to the changes in the soil. In the video, the soil color change is what the ubiquitous mud brick looks like upon digging into, the mud brick a staple of any rural and urban settlement. To identify this, look for the color change that is darker rust-colors, a type of clumpiness in the soil, and white fibers that helped bond the bricks (today fiberglass strands provide that binding agent, at least with concrete). Mud bricks also required a foundation that raised them above the ground surface so they didn’t melt away when it rained (saturate the mud bricks, and they will slump and fail).


Back to the Vigla Test Units

Tomorrow (05/25/2012) we re-enter the archaeological test units we started some days prior at the Vigla site on the southern coast of Cyprus, heading back into the field after an intermittent lull in the excavation action. Without sensationalizing any of this, the reason for lulls has to do with the reason there is a preserved site for us to dig at Vigla in the first place: British artillery. More specifically, the British military has a base on Cyprus, and they use and have used this area for a test-firing range. Now this doesn’t mean shells are directed toward the PKAP Vigla site (well, never intentionally), but there always is a chance for some kind of misfire or ballistic trajectory to go all wrong. That is why the Brits won’t (or cannot) allow anyone up on the Vigla mesa during certain times of the week. The PKAP team organizes the weekly schedule this way in order to make up for lost digging time due to the Brits understandably having to sharpen their artillery skills  — for Queen, country, and Hellenistic archaeology (inaccurate and imprecise artillery is the dangerous kind).

I have a 3-person crew, and we are all scheduled to leave for work tomorrow at the site at 6:15AM, and not stop excavating until 7:00PM. Then we will repeat this process on 05/26/2012, a Saturday, and have a little bit lighter schedule on Sunday and Monday, excavating some and getting into the lab in Larnaka to process the recently pulled artifacts.

Looking south from the top of the Vigla site. This photo taken sometime around 05/20/2012.

I have been in the archaeological field since 2002, at least in North American contexts. For the first time in the eastern Mediterranean on a dig, I am quite looking forward to re-entering the test units we started some days ago, pulling out material and plotting artifacts, taking notes and dry screening. I am also looking forward to taking down field-notes on an iPad ap that the PKAP crew put together (Digital Archaeology goes on-line: more on this later). I am equally looking forward to guiding my three-person crew on what is the first dig of their lives. Remember to put your water bottles in the freezer the night before, at least so it is icy cold up through the noon hour. Keep your broad-brim hat on, and suck down the water whenever you think of it. See you in the trenches.


Zeno’s Rail Slides: Skate or Die, Zeno

A subtitle might read, “The Cynical and Stoic Philosophy of Skateboarding.” It might have. On Friday evening, May 18, 2012, several rail-slides were executed at the base of the Zeno of Citium statue in Larnaka, Cyprus. I nodded my head in approval upon seeing these (even though the skaters did not at all require my approval). Zeno (344-266BCE) hailed from the ancient city of Citium which is just north of present-day Cyprus. He has been publicly memorialized, a statue put up who-knows-how-long-ago (working on this) in Larnaka. Today, skate-boarders perform ollie impossibles near and rail-slides on (among other sweet moves) the immortalized Zeno. Below is rather grainy footage of a couple sweet rail slides. Skate or die, Zeno.


Olive Oil Production

In the history of high technology, the way in which olive oil has been extracted has varied. I am just coming within range of how something I often use has been produced throughout time: in the short video below Jon Crowley expands on an olive oil press in Larnaka, Cyprus on May 17, 2012. There are a couple other videos on olive oil, and if you defer to Batali you get a comprehensive understanding here and here of the regional flavors of oils throughout Italia. There are others, of course, a couple Cypriot samples from here, here, and here. Check out the short video I took of Mr. Crowley below. Though initially hesitant to oblige my request to explain the olive oil press in front of us, I told Crowley that the camera was not running when it really was. Sometimes you need to make quick explanations if you want to capture that crucial video.