Living the Dream

I’m sitting on the patio of the Krasares Restauraunt on the coastal road outside the village of Kissonerga in the Paphos District of Cyprus. Its the 4th day of the second week of excavation in the 2012 season at the Bronze Age site of Kissonerga-Skalia, directed by Dr. Lindy Crewe, of Uni. Manchester. I’m here in the role of advanced student/pottery assistant. Lindy is widely considered the finest ceramicist working on Cyprus, plus she’s just ridiculously wonderful to work with, and having weighed my options (including just staying in the States and working on my reading list – prudent, but BORING) I hauled myself, via 4 plane flights and 30 hours, to return to my favorite country to do archaeology. If you’re looking for a great field school in Cypriot archaeology, I highly recommend you check it out next year!

The project is going well this season, with 4 trenches open and digging is moving on apace. The site is fascinating, and confusing! We have loads of Chalcolithic material, which appears to have washed down from the site of Kissonerga-Mosphilia, sitting atop some layers which may be as late as Late Cypriot I (the earliest phase of the Late Bronze Age on Cyprus) and others as early as Early Cypriot I or even Philia (the earliest phases of the Early Bronze Age on Cyprus). Our primary goals are to figure out what was going on at this site during both its earliest and latest occupations, and to try to establish a stratified pottery sequence. The pottery sequence is particularly important, because the ceramics here in the southwest of Cyprus are quite different from those found in other parts of the island, and the pottery here has never really been studied. Lindy is working on developing a new typology for the Bronze Age ceramics of the area, which when correlated with the typologies for the southern part of the island, and the best known from the central and southern regions, will allow us to really see how the region fit into the broader history of the island. Big problem right now – we have some pretty diagnostic stuff for the latest and earliest phases, but right now recognizing the Middle Bronze Age is really difficult. Presumably it’s there, but we just don’t know how to see it!

I spent today drawing pottery, a skill I am now very glad I acquired, thanks in particular to Jorrit Kelder (check out his wonderful book “The Kingdom of Mycenae: A Great Kingdom in the Late Bronze Age Aegean”) who taught me the basics when I worked at Priniatikos-Pyrgos on Crete. Pottery drawing is a funny thing – more technical drawing than anything else, but I find its a great way to really get to know the material. I’m a very visual and hands-on learner (lectures go in one ear and out the other), so the act of handling the ceramic sherds, orienting them, and visually reconstructing the vessels really helps me to learn the shapes, fabrics, and decoration, in a way that reading publication reports never fully does. I’m planning on taking my camera out this week to document the pottery analysis and recording process, which I hope to post on this blog. Just don’t make fun of my drawings – they’re passable, but I’m no artist!

The first step in pottery processing, is every archaeologist’s favorite post-excavation duty (sarcasm? maybe not…), pottery washing. Today’s pottery washing was particularly entertaining though, since we found ourselves washing a bunch of things we shouldn’t have! These were objects that had been mistaken for pottery, because of their irregular shapes and being caked in dirt, so honest mistakes all, but still amusing. Since everything was kept with the material from the context in which it was excavated, we still know right where they were found. So, pulled out of the pottery buckets today were a) a beautiful chalcolithic polished stone chisel, b) a pierced stone disk, c) a deer antler prong (possibly a handle of a tool, or a tool in and of itself), and d) a really peculiar ground stone object which appeared to have been a piece of stone bowl or mortar in a previous life, but which had been reshaped into some sort of stamp or rubber.

Dinner tonight was roasted potatoes and aubergines with fresh feta crumbled and melted on top, a large greek salad, and pickled beetroot. So delicious! We eat here 4 dinners a week, one night is pizza, and two nights we’re on our own. Lunches we take turns cooking for the team (cooking for 30 is an adventure!), and breakfast is out in the field, a standard archaeological practice. The food so far has been excellent, and since I’m not excavating like I normally would be, as I stay back at the dig house to work on the ceramics, and since I’m eating so much, I fear I’m not losing weight, but may even be gaining it! But, with delicious Cypriot food in my stomach and the sun is setting into the Mediterranean, turning the haze yellow and pink and orange, it may be time to have a drink with the crew before heading up the hill for the night. Good night all!

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