So the boat from Turkey worked in prinicple. Four hours late in leaving (people didn’t even show up until two hours after) and somehow eight hours early I beached at Taşucu at ten at night, tired, disoriented, and with absolutely no idea what was there.
It would be fair to say that I hadn’t really planned this part (or, indeed, any part). For a while the Internet had been swearing blind that a direct Girne – Istanbul route was running, but pretty much no-one in the TRNC seemed to agree (yes, I know, the Internet is a brazen liar). Only boat on offer, then.
A taxi tore out of the dark, preying on the people escaping customs, before spotting us, the only tourists on the boat, Scottish, Iraqi and Sri Lankan, holding up the Turkish labourers who were looking for work in Cyprus as the border guards reacquainted themselves with passports and their own visa laws.
Sod it. ”Evet.”
The bus station obviously has one goal in existence: getting people on buses. Reps from the myriad of bus companies patrol the corridors of all Turkish bus stations, shouting destinations like metronomes, escorting you to their booths, like wraiths on commission. ”Adana?”
I’m fairly sure this is a city I need to go to. ”Adana.”
”Bus in 20 minutes,” he says, taking my money. No time to think, no time to plan. The bus passes an open cheap hotel on its way out of the bus station, dragging me the 200km along the southern coast of Anatolia to where I think Adana is. I sigh.
In my defence the reason I haven’t been talking for the last week is because I hit the road.
N.B. What follows is what I have seen and what I have been told by people on both sides of the Green Line, and my interpretations of that. Remember the disclaimer. I use the Turkish names for cities in the TRNC as these names are de facto.
Nicosia (Greek: Lefkosia, Turkish: Lefkoşa) is frankly crazy. The most obvious fallout of the Turkish invasion is here, with the entire city divided by the Green Line, the creation of the UN during pre-war ethnic strife with (yes, you guessed it) a green pen. Even on the tourist literature the line ‘last divided capital’ is paraded, which frankly strikes me as tasteless.
Your first clue that something is going on would be the mountains on the Turkish side:
Photo taken from atop the Ledra Tower, looking north into the TRNC across the Green Line
I’ve just realised that I shouldn’t go into too much depth here (after all, the results remain unpublished and they’re hardly my results), but nonetheless I’m going to give a basic rundown of how things went on the hill, and the coolest things we’ve found. Don’t confuse my interpretations with those upcoming in academic form from Avignon.
Here is my terrible map of the site as we left it (assume an E-W width of no more than 7m). The numbering is my own throughout, the points of interest are those that interest me personally, and everything that I mention here is either clearly visible from the road or something I pointed out multiple times to curious visitors. Formal site maps are much more serious things: one of the French team was a dedicated drawer, and he spent most of his time stretching tape measures over walls, and drawing features to photographic accuracy (whilst playing up the key features, an advantage he’s got over photos).
A breakdown of the points of interest:
1) This wall – the S-N retaining wall – seems to have been cut out of bedrock: after a while as we went down we found this section, unlike the rest, was held up by a gigantic slab of bedrock material that we never did get to the bottom of.
2) This is the wall hole that starred in Holeception. There were hints of mortar and wall paint in this corner as well, which I’ve taken as support for my interpretation.
3) This E-W wall isn’t contiguous with the walls to its south and east: we know this both because it’s built in a different style with different stone (the rocks are more angular, and only fit due to liberal use of pebble mortar, whereas the original walls are built out of mostly similar, large blocks of sandstone). We hit the bottom of it towards the end, which demonstrates that it’s from a later period, after much of the bottom of the original house has been filled in. I’m not sure if this extends into House 3 or even across all of House 4, as much of what could have been this wall is no longer standing.
4) Owain, after wheedling and wangling, managed to get permission to take light trenches on both sides of the House3/4 dividing wall: the reason we know that there even is a House 4 rather than a huge House 3 is due to his discovery of mortar on both sides of the wall. This sort of thing is uncommon for outside walls.
5) The base of a large and ornate wall painting sits here, the white mortar glinting in the sun. The paintings themselves have been carefully removed for restoration, so hopefully they’ll make a return soon. I’ve seen the skills of the restorers: I’m pretty confident they can deliver an accurate and quality piece.
Houses 1 and 2 are probably our best candidates for maintenance. Look at the site profile again, this time with Microsoft Paint involved:
Only House 1 and 2 have been taken down to their floors: preservation-wise, it seems best to fill in 3 and 4 and restore 1 and 2. This hopefully will be sharpish, as you can see 1 is being held up by wooden supports right now, and another rainy season could easily take much of this apart.
So what is this place?
The houses, in the end, are probably Augustinian (for Augustus Caesar, reigned 27 BC – 14 AD), as we’ve got nothing Hellenistic to my mind that we can pin on the site except for disorganised pottery fragments. Given that we know the fill has come from a higher spoil heap, this signifies little, although the assemblage seems substantially weighted to the Roman period. I still stand by the single-generation hypothesis, but unfortunately nothing explains why it was abandoned.
At some point afterwards (possibly the Lusignan period? The pottery samples from the fill end around there), House 4 was partially rebuilt, incorporating the remaining ancient walls into a new structure. No such evidence exists for the two open houses, and House 3 is inconclusive, so we can assume it’s a one-off event: such opportunism in building is universal, with existing walls either being built on again or, as with Hadrian’s Wall, being taken apart for pre-cut building materials.
(Cypro-Archaic is the term favoured to describe the Greek kingdoms of Cyprus prior to their contact with Alexander the Great and annexation by the Ptolemies)
To return to that map from the other day:
From D.W. Rupp, in E. Peltenburg, Early Society in Cyprus, Edinburgh, 1989, p. 347)
The various city-state kingdoms of Cyprus do fluctuate over time – this map shows them at their most numerous in the Cypro-Archaic II Period (550-500 BC) – with each centred, of course, on its parent city. Another list exists as they stood at 703 BC, recorded on an Assyrian stele (the Assyrians exacted tribute from much fot he island in their heyday) The example of Pafos, where the capital is actually moved, is not repeated anywhere else as far as we know so each city’s a good proxy for the life and death of its state.
In the last couple of days I’ve passed through Amathus, a nearly forgotten set of ruins on the edge of Lemesos (Limassol) surrounded by hotel developments, and Idalion, which the Cypriot Department of Antiquities is quietly excavating with a state-of-the-art, brand new museum sitting besides it. This makes four of them under my belt now – Kyrenia (in northern Cyprus and still settled, as Kyrenia in Greek and Girne in Turkish), which isn’t on the map above, will make a fifth and Salamis, just outside of Famagusta, a possible sixth. I feel like a collector.
Digging’s done. This, however, isn’t going to stop me talking in very long sentences about interesting things that I have been staring vacantly at.
Today I was at the archaeological site of Kourion, on the south coast of the island. Originally the seat of one of the Cypriot principalities, the legend goes that it was founded by the Argives (of Argos, Greece), and shifts in pottery style around that time do suggest a sudden influx of Greek settlers from around 1200 BC. Once they were all settled, the island looked something like this:
(From D.W. Rupp, in E. Peltenburg, Early Society in Cyprus, Edinburgh, 1989, p. 347)
Back in the days when I and everyone else born in the same year were young, I had a habit of rummaging through abandoned buildings. This is urban exploration, but in an attempt to make it seem relevant I may also call it ‘initial state archaeology’. This is what buildings look like before we dig them up.
The Apollo Hotel in Pafos is abandoned, after a fashion. Built illegally, it was repossessed by the government and handed to the Antiquities Department: they use it as a base for the myriad of missions (Polish, Australian, Greek, Italian, French and Scottish by the last count) in Pafos. This is becoming steadily more difficult, since it turns out it was built of exceptionally poor materials. Every shower of rain makes it sag a little more: I give it ten years before it collapses entirely, which if I’m right would double its current lifespan.
So I had a stoat around.
Three weeks in, and we’re winding up, backfilling, and looking nervously at the soil walls of the trench: we’re over two and a half metres now, and dust and small pebbles trickle down in small bursts, in tune with the strikes of handheld picks several feet away. The one day of rain, which came down tropical and drove us from the site, dragged down parts and stabilised others. Yannick reminds us that “we’re here to dig, not to die”.
Here is the coolest thing that came out of our trench (notice the new, much longer and far less trustworthy ladder):
It’s a hole in a wall. Doesn’t look like much, does it? Ah, but. You see the slightly raised whitish material around it? That’s original mortar, and that hole is carved into the slab behind it. What we’ve got here, in fact, is a hidden stash (sadly empty, with the same fill as the surround), covered with mortar and probably painted, if the lovely little bits of coloured plaster we’ve been pulling out from this level mean anything. It’s built into the fabric of the house itself, and judging by the new context layer we hit today that could be the top of the floor, it’s likely at head height.
This in turn says a few lovely things about the site. Firstly, it probably wasn’t occupied for long. Whatever was put in there could only be accessed once, by smashing through the mortar, which you’d only do if you knew it was there. That rules out any change in ownership, except perhaps generational: I’m tempted to say the house was abandoned by the same person who had it built. I’m even more tempted to say that if the walls are indeed Hellenistic, then this event neatly marks the fall of Nea Pafos to the Ptolemies back in the 3rd century BC: Nea Pafos is barely a generation old when they show up. We found traces of the north wall today as well, as predicted, which places this house on what could either be an ideal escape route away from the Egyptian landings in the south. or in the middle of the fighting itself, depending on how they came in. That’s probably wishful thinking, but you’d be amazed how convincing I could be with some CGI and a voiceover.
Of course, before any of my wild claims about anything can be substantiated, we need dates. The masonry expert who showed up last week has gone all je ne sais quoi on the tool marks we hoped would date the walls (now the tallest standing walls from whatever period it is – it’s Augustinian at latest – on Cyprus), so we’re down to pottery. The pottery from yesterday looks like this:
Every day in our trench, we’re pulling out one or two plastic bags, Tesco-size, filled to the brim with shards of every sort of pottery you can imagine (which is probably not much, but I don’t blame you), and so are everyone else’s trenches. Sacks of pottery fill the halls of our abandoned hotel base (which is dead cool, report to follow). This lot have been washed and divided by origin: once they dry, we mark up the interesting ones from each section and hand them to a ceramologist who can tell us that this is Central Glazed Ware or something, and that it dates from such-and-such a period and was manufactured by the Whoever of Somewhere Over There. It’s a cheap and nasty dating method, in my opinion, and hardly bulletproof given we know that most of it’s come from surrounding tips and our stratification is weak at best, but seeing as we’ve not got the money for radiocarbon – needs must when the Devil drives.
Next week: a site overview, summary, and the question of whether I actually can get to Turkey by means of North Cyprus. Don’t worry though!