Tranquil Mornings in Larnaca and Group Activities

(Guest post by Alisa MacDonald)

Today was our last day of excavation and it is rather bittersweet. Although we had to wake up at four in the morning to be up at site just as the sun rose, it was a pleasant experience because I had not watched the sunrise in almost a decade and here in Cyprus I was able to watch it every morning. As we woke before the rest of Larnaca, and just as some were going to sleep, the bustling beach town that was sweltering throughout the day was tranquil and peaceful. Before going up to the site, there is always a stop at Zorba’s, everyone’s favorite bakery that is open at all hours of the day and carries more tasty pastries than you can dream of. Finally, after possibly falling back asleep on the short car ride to the site, we would arrive on site in a shroud of darkness. We would get to work before dawn in the trenches and watch in awe as the sun rose and filtered in beautiful morning daylight, golden beams of light, perfect for picture taking. Watching the sunrise was beautiful, as soft rays of light made the different stratigraphic units of our trenches clearer and with the sea down the cliff to the south of us, there was nothing that could be more serene than the beauty of the nature and moment which made all issues and worries wink out of existence, even just for a moment, as the stars did with the arrival of morning light. 

The team worked closely together on site, but after we finished excavating for the day there were plenty of fun moments that we spent together. Some would take to the beach, a short walk away from our apartments, while others would stop by the local grocery store, Super Discount Store, to stock up on food after tiring mornings on site. Many would fit in an afternoon nap somewhere, at the beach or apartment, or my personal favorite, the couch, and at dinner time come back together either to go out and put a poor restaurant into panic with our large group, or to cook in the kitchen together. Some nights home made meals were cooked among us and shared while other nights we each made our own thing, or for me reheating some left over Pizza Hut, which Cyprus does really well. After dinner, we would cram our tired bodies onto the two couches in our apartment and connect a laptop to the television for a group movie night. Most movies we watched were related to archaeology such as The Mummy, Holes, and Indiana Jones, but others we watched for pure enjoyment and nostalgia such as Howl’s Moving Castle and Atlantis. Some would nod off during the movie, after such a long day, but by at least ten o’clock the movie would be over and we would be rushing to bed in order to have enough rest for another morning of excavation, but also out of pure exhaustion. Cyprus, with your peaceful mornings, sweltering heat, and amazing Pizza Hut, you have my heart.

The Larnaca Pizza Hut, beloved by all.

Beating the Heat

(Guest post by Michael Quinn)

It’s now half way through our third week in Cyprus, and it is also the last week that we can dig (the firing range is reserved starting the 24th). Most days have a comfortable rhythm: suffer through waking up at 4 am, get to the site and work as much as possible until our long break at 8:30, and then work begins to slow down as the heat grows more stifling, but everything always comes to a stop when someone finds something cool. Usually around 12:30, we pack up our gear, close down the trenches, and smush together in the cars like a tin of sardines. On Tuesday this week, the heat was particularly bad. Most days, the weather could be described as hot, wet, and humid, but Tuesday was a dry, smothering heat that crept upon you over time until eventually everyone was hiding in any shade they could find and guzzling down water in a last ditch effort to not succumb to dehydration. For the first time in a while people were whipping out their extra emergency waters and gatorades to cool off. Once time was up though, people hopped back into work: preparing the site for another day’s work, and then we hightailed out of there back to the apartments for a welcome shower and an afternoon nap either by the beach or in the air conditioned apartments. 

Everyone is hard at work in the late morning heat.
Large amphora was finally fully exposed and pulled out today (7/20).

Mamma Mia!

(Guest post by Amir Weksler)

Celia at the Byzantine/Medieval Σαράντα Κολώνες fortress, Kato Paphos archaeological park.

On Saturdays we are all led on field trips to different archaeological sites on the island of Cyprus. This weekend’s trip was to Paphos, the mythological birthplace (or landing place, depending on your myth) of Aphrodite. Although the “Tombs of the Kings” were impressive and beautiful, and the black rock that is (supposedly) the incarnate and aniconic form of the goddess was certainly magical, the highlight by far was a restaurant called, simply, “Mother’s.”

Aphrodite herself, in all her glory. Palaepaphos Archaeological Museum.

After a long morning of hot bus rides, sunny hiking, sweaty exploring, and failed museum operations, we were all hungry and grumpy. Although the beach boardwalk and its many loud barkers were inviting, Michael promised he had found a restaurant on google maps. I had faith. One hot, sunny, sweaty walk into a more residential and less tourist-ridden neighborhood revealed a home, flanked by potted plants and flaunting a veranda full of set tables. Deserted. A few brave members of the party ventured into the kitchen to the pleasant discovery of a short and shirtless old man working a stone oven. He sat us down and took our orders recommending the lamb above all else. Half an hour later everyone was presented with a full plate: veggie moussaka, barbequed chicken, stuffed peppers, and lamb… heavenly lamb. After the meal, the man returned bearing homemade drinks – on the house! Everyone slept well on the bus ride home.


Two days later, after four hours of efficient digging, at 8:30 in the morning, second breakfast, the bees attacked. Remembering the coastal adventure in Paphos – the romance of Aphrodite, the delicious food cooked by the one old Cypriot, to lighten the mood at the dig site the students and supervisors had been singing along to the Mamma Mia movie soundtrack. The festivities were cut short by the attacking bees, driven to rage and stupor by their keeper. This attack came as a shock to many, but likely as a relief to the adults, sick of the ABBA, and many of the students, glad to escape the exposed glare of the sun in favor of pottery washing in Terra Ombra.

Luxury and Militarism

(Guest post by Rose Gatlin)

The Vigla site is an interesting one, an ancient military fort situated on the grounds of a modern  British military base. The excavation units of 2022 sit between a shooting range and a grenade  range actively used by soldiers—as a result, we work on the whim and schedule of the British  military, a schedule that is often subject to change. If the British soldiers decide they are  shooting that day, the students and faculty working at Vigla must be elsewhere. The British  military is indeed a strong presence, with about seven military helicopters flying over Vigla a  day and base police coming to check permits at unknown times. As we excavate the Vigla fort, we  view the consequences of thousands of years of military and colonial presence on the island of  Cyprus, reaching from the Hellenistic times to our own. Indeed, at the Vigla site you can find  both modern bullet casings and ancient lead sling bullets in the same twenty-foot radius.

Anna Wilson holding a lead sling bullet from EU23

However, perhaps unexpectedly for me, there is more to find at Vigla than objects of classic  military significance. The two excavation units open for the 2022 season appear to be a  domestic context, with both units yielding a plethora of objects. In only the first two weeks, six  coins, intact ceramic eating ware, a beautiful bead perhaps made of lapis, and a decorated  bread-stamp (we think!) have all been unearthed. In excavation unit 23, there were also enough ceramic  remains to suggest there being a high volume of carrying amphorae. These items, when  considered together, do not paint a picture of just simple military living. To me, it seems  whoever inhabited this area of the Hellenistic military fort lived a life where there was some  degree of abundance. It is a reminder that one could become a rich man in the military and find  a large degree of power. This message seems particularly powerful on Cyprus, an island partially  occupied by several foreign militaries.

The bread-stamp/amphorae seal stamp emerging from the fill above a floor in EU20


(Guest post by Anna Wilson)

Vigla at dawn

After adjusting to the timezone and the excitement of being in Cyprus last week, the second week has begun. Initially, we thought that our working hours would be scattered due to the shooting schedule of the nearby military base. But last Tuesday they changed their schedule. The new schedule allows us to dig five days a week, seven hours per day, until the last week of July; during which we will do lab work and process our findings at Terra Ombra (the name for the local archaeological museum’s off-site storage facility). We were all happy about this schedule change. The first week proved more fruitful than any of us could have imagined. Within the first four days, we rediscovered two sling bullets, two coins (one of which is an Alexander the Great tetradrachm minted in Babylon soon after his death), a small pendant, and an intact in situ bowl. On Monday, we all gathered around as the trench supervisor of EU 20 extracted the in situ bowl from the ground. 

The 4 am alarm was unwelcome at first, but now it spurs an excitement for what the day might have in store for us up on site (it’s still real difficult to get up though…). Living with others in my major, and those from other institutions, whom I do not typically interact with has given me the fun and unique opportunity to get to know them better. There is nothing quite like hitting the beach, going out to dinner, or exploring downtown Larnaca with those you just spent a full day of excavation. 

Obverse of Alexander the Great tetradrachm. Head of a young Herakles, r.
Reverse, with Zeus enthroned, looking l., with eagle. Mint mark beneath throne. ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ is mostly cut off at the bottom, but ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ is clearly visible to Zeus’ r.

The in-situ bowl (EU20 8202_1001)


(Guest post by Celia Garb)

Cats and St. Lazarus Church

Several things, quickly, before I go to the beach…

Feral cats prefer meat over potatoes, and fish over chicken. There are more cats than humans on the island of Cyprus.

ΖΟΡΠΟΣ is an excellent bakery where we stop most mornings before driving East along the coast from Larnaca to Vigla.

There is no sand in Larnaca, only sandy dirt, which now coats the floors of our apartment, collecting in far corners and sticking to my feet, such that even after a shower, I always deposit a small amount at the foot of the bed, between the sheets. Speaking of which, our beds are made up with two top sheets. Waking up is like finding oneself in a confusing world of drapery and bare mattresses.

The greatest shock has been the humidity. Portland oscillates between dry heat and damp cold; Larnaca stays hot and begins and ends each day with a surprising amount of humidity.

I look forward to playing music for the group on site. Tom likes MF DOOM best.

There are no waves or fish. The beach is serene at night, the sky turns taupe.


We’re Back!

(R to L) Michael Quinn, Amir Weksler, Anna Wilson, and Celia Garb hard at work in EU 23.

After two missed years due to COVID-19, the Vigla project is excavating again this year! We’ve entered our second week of excavation, and we’re already coming down on some very exciting stuff. In addition to six students from Reed, we are joined by three students from Metropolitan State University Denver, co-sponsor of this excavation.

This year, we have two open trenches. The first is EU 20, which we were excavating in 2019, but were not able to finish. The second is EU 22, a 5x5m trench immediately to the east of EU 20. We hope to get a better sense of architecture in the “domestic” portion of the site, and to come down on preserved surfaces with extensive deposits of pottery and other artifacts.

This year, we’re turning the blog mostly over to the students so that they can update everyone on their experience. We’re hoping to update the blog three times a week!

Living in Larnaca

Now that we’ve all left Larnaca and are strangely nostalgic about the past four weeks, we thought we’d reminisce about living in Larnaca. This will be our last post for this summer, but we’ll add occasional posts about the project during the year, so check back for updates. Information about next year’s fieldschool will be posted here in the winter. If you’re interested in participating or have any questions about the project, you can always contact Professor Tom Landvatter.

Continue reading “Living in Larnaca”

Wrapping up

The end of an archaeological field season is a hectic time. In addition to trying to either finish trench excavation or leave the trench in a safe state for additional excavation next season, there is pottery to wash, finds to process, photos to take, and archaeological drawings to do.

Two archaeologists carefully remove an intact bowl
It’s a bowl!
Continue reading “Wrapping up”