As we begin closing site this final week, I’d like to take a moment to write on one of the aspects of work we have done that hasn’t been covered yet this summer- Terra Ombra!
During our first week, trench supervisor and resident pottery expert Dr. Melanie Godsey showed us how to differentiate the pottery sherds. We learned about the fabric of a piece, inclusions, and how to tell the difference between fineware, coarseware, and cookware. We also were instructed by Reed alum Lex Ladge ‘19 on how to properly clean pottery for later analysis and cataloging without damaging the surfaces. After the initial talk, we did an impromptu sorting challenge to apply what we had just learned (we got about a 92% accuracy) As time went on these differences became more clear, both from our trips to museums (One notable museum exhibit was the wall of amphorae at the Paphos museum) and also trench experience! I have lost count of the number of times I have asked “Is this a rock?” or “What type of pottery is this?”
In between our time on site, at Terra Ombra, or on field trips, a great deal of the day is our own to enjoy in the city of Larnaca. We typically leave site around noon, however a particularly nasty heat wave has been forcing us to leave earlier and earlier. In the van on the way to the apartments we usually reach a consensus of whether it’s a beach day or a nap day. On the days when we don’t all immediately retreat to the air conditioning and a nap a contingent of us will trek the three blocks to the beach. Many of us have never swum in water so clear, and even though we have now been here three weeks and made many beach trips we still marvel at the clearness and lack of waves when we’re wading out.
Despite our lofty excavation plans for the week being sabotaged by the sudden schedule change of the British military, our intrepid crew of aspiring archaeologists and lovers of humanity had an incredible few days– headed, of course, by our fearless and vigilant leaders. Instead of passionately toiling in the trenches under the oppressive heat wave, our weekdays were swapped with pottery washing endeavors at Terra Ombra and adventures around the island (previously scheduled for Saturdays, now jam-packed into this week of happy surprises). Our first, on-schedule day trip was to the Cyprus Museum in historic Nicosia, which Asta Rossi recounted wonderfully in her previous blog post.
Our first destination, on Tuesday, included archaeological sites and museum stops around the Paphos district of Cyprus. We began at the sprawling necropolis Tombs of the Kings, whose construction began in the 4th century BCE as a magnificent burial site for various aristocrats of the region and continued in activity through the Roman periods. Paphos was a cornerstone of Ptolemaic kingdoms in the Hellenistic age, and the fascinating range of architecture at the site certainly adds to its splendor. As we wandered through the many complexes built down into the earth, we encountered beautiful Doric columns and courtyards, scattered niches in the wall once reserved for extravagant grave goods and burial features, and frequent, haunting loculi– once homes to many sarcophagi and their well-to-do inhabitants– now hollow due to the moist sea-side soil that makes the preservation of human remains near impossible on the island. The site was astoundingly beautiful and extensive; it is still being excavated today!
The museum promises education, excitement, and relief from the baking sun. Once we enter, we are transported into Cypriot antiquity with all of its wares, oddities, and artifacts.
The first museum we visited was the Larnaca Archaeological Museum. New to the island and the excavation processes, I was certainly overwhelmed by the number of artifacts surrounding me with helpful captions and signs to read more into. From small stone tools and pieces of jewelry to large ceramics and sarcophagi, this museum provided an important stepping stone in learning about Cypriot material culture, which put our excavation work into necessary context. I found the small figurines on pottery along with other unique Cypriot styles delightfully whimsical and special. However, my mini-mission throughout all the museum visits was to locate the lamps. I find them particularly interesting because of the central and intimate space they occupy in a home or a building, and seeing the burn marks on them adds another layer of reality, prompting me to imagine how they were used and handled in antiquity. I am also fond of their fun shapes and sizes.
As I sit here after an (unexpected) morning at Terra Ombra and a long afternoon at the beach, I feel at a loss for where to begin when talking about the first two weeks of the PKAP Vigla 2023 excavation. From early morning Zorba’s runs, to pickaxing, to seeing the thumbprint of an ancient potter on a sherd of dishware, the first half of this experience has been nothing short of incredible. For me, however, the highlight of this season by far has been the excavation itself. I applied for the Vigla field school with a bit of trepidation; I had never experienced hands-on archaeological work and felt in over my head. However, my fear about whether or not I would enjoy the physical aspect of archaeology was quickly dissolved.
Our first morning on site was, to say the least, exhausting! With few of us acclimated to the intense work environment in the humid Cypriot heat, we all petered out pretty quickly. Despite this exhaustion, the first morning was filled with excitement as the undergraduates began turning up pottery sherds in the topsoil of our new trench, EU 24. While we quickly learned that these sherds are far from rare on site and turn up by the handful with every new tureya-full of dirt, the thrill of finding something last touched by humans in the Hellenistic era has not yet left me. [n.b. from Tom: tureya is an Egyptian Arabic (not Greek) word for a kind of large field hoe; Tom picked up the word in Egypt when he worked there, and now it’s the term used by the team at Vigla since that’s what he called them]
As the days go on, I’ve tried my hand at pickaxing, “tureya-ing” loose dirt and rubble, trimming the balk, and sieving buckets of dirt to look for pottery sherds. While this work is unlike anything I’ve ever done before, it is incredibly rewarding to participate in the discovery of these ancient artifacts and architecture. My most exciting find yet was a small arrowhead from a pile of overturned rubble in our trench–which we promptly named Taylor Swift–Melon after one of our favorite musicians and the delicious snack we had at “second breakfast.”
Though days at site have settled into a somewhat predictable routine and structure, there are surprises around every corner. For example, our digging schedule is influenced by the British military and their shooting practice schedule. It initially appeared that we would have little interference in terms of scheduling…until this morning, when they raised a red warning flag at about 7 am and informed us that they were starting shooting at 7:30 and we needed to get out. After leaving in a scramble, we ended up washing pottery at Terra Ombra for the rest of the morning and having to adjust our schedule for next week. In spite of this setback, we still managed to engage with artifacts and the site as best we could, which was a welcome opportunity.
With my muscles and joints getting achier, our hotel floor getting ever-sandier, and the halfway mark of our trip drawing nearer, I only grow more excited to return to site to contribute in whatever way I can to the excavation of the Vigla site. All of my reservations about the experience are gone, and I feel more motivated than ever to continue doing archaeology.
‘Tis now the second week of the PKAP Vigla 2023 excavation, and things are off to a spectacular start! It is my second season at this site and I feel very fortunate to return this year! Most days I am up on site with others but since I am working on a project with Tom I have been in Terra Ombra a lot more this year. We got started on the project last week when we pulled and washed some of the pottery from the relevant units to our project. Melanie Godsey, our field director and recent UNC Chapel Hill PhD, gave me an extremely informative crash course on how to read/scan pottery, and thanks to that – and her edits and words of wisdom – I feel much more equipped to venture into this project. This week I have been able to start scanning and logging pottery, and I am very excited that I get to help out with cataloging our vast collection of ceramics. This task, however, can be in the words of Melanie “mind-melting” at times, but it is quite fun and fascinating at others! While my heart lies in digging and excavating, I truly appreciate and have been enjoying this opportunity to learn this separate, important, and fascinating side of the archaeological process. Now when I read archeological papers I have so much more respect for the work that is put into the presentation and analysis of data. Another bonus of Terra Ombra is that I get to work closely with Lex (’19), a Reed alumna!
We started excavating this year on July 3, and have already been turning up some exciting material! We are now in midway through week 2 of our season, and have five (!) active trenches thanks to a much larger team this year. Our team consists of seven Reed students, 10 students from Metropolitan State University of Denver, as well as another volunteer. The senior staff consists of the folowing:
Tom Landvatter (Reed College, co-director) Brandon R. Olson (MSU Denver, co-director) Melanie Godsey (Texas Tech University, field director) Justin Stephens (MSU Denver, educational director) Ana Gonzalez San Martín (Brown University, trench supervisor) Brandon Baker (UNC Chapel Hill, trench supervisor) Lex Ladge ’19 (University of Chicago, registrar)
With so many people this year, we’ve been able to dig more than we have any any other year. Besides continuing excavation in EU 20 and EU 23, we’ve opened up three new units: EU 24, EU 25, and EU26.
Like last year, Reed students will be writing updates at least biweekly for the rest of the month. You can also follow the GLAM department’s Instagram for more updates on the dig!
The 2023 Vigla Archaeological Field School is a go! From July 3-28 2023, I (Tom Landvatter) will be running another season of excavation along Brandon Olson of Metropolitan State University of Denver. Current Reed students who will still be enrolled as of July this year are welcome to apply and participate in our archaeological field school program. The application form can be found here. Applications are due by 5pm on Feb. 3, 2023. An information session for interested students will be held from 4:15-5:00pm on Jan. 30, 2023 in Eliot 314. Contact me (Tom) at email@example.com for questions/further inquiries!
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.
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.