Fabrika Hill, Pafos, Republic of Cyprus, Part 2: Holeception
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!