Looking at the artifacts that have been left behind in Room 1 can tell us a very interesting tale. There were some twelve bronze coins found as well as three bronze coin fragments. These coins were found during excavation of the site in the years 1993 and 1999. These coins were found at such depth using the stratigraphy chart where the first coins were found in Phase 3 at an elevation of ca. 900-840 and the rest were in the other two Phases; Phase 2 and Phase 1. I find interesting the iron nails that were discovered across Room 1. These were found in the lower points of the Phase 4 stage of the digging, in the D9 level which is that of 947-862, 944-900. Below this level were found more nails that go throughout Phase 3 and Phase 2 which is where it seemed much of the nails and nail fragments were found. The third pieces of evidence that I want to talk about before I draw my conclusion is that of the amount of the cover tiles that were found in such abundance although it is not too hard to see that they are used throughout a house from this time period. These cover tiles are found all throughout the dig site for we see them through all the Phases minus Phase 1. Also, found in Room 1 was an abundance of debris which contained large plaster and cement pieces located in the northwest corner. The northwest corner also had a layer of ashes on the floor which contained a few of the bronze coins. As mentioned before, a portico which faced north-south in direction, had been found in front of Room 1. What I am seeing from the evidence is that something had to have happened when the city of Koutsopetria was a thriving port. One thing that is very interesting in Room 1 is the fact that those who dug this site found in the stratigraphy, a layer of ash in room one in Phase 3 of the stratigraphy which is at 900-840. Also, most of the nails and tiles were located, not in their own separate piles, but in between the other larger pieces of the artifacts such as that of the layers of the gypsum which is throughout Room 1 in Phase 3 specifically. From this I get that the event that could have happened was that the port city of Koutsopetria was attacked at some point in its past by any number of people that were near this city. One thing that I find interesting is that layer of ash that was found to be in Room 1. There could be several reasons why an ash layer was left, but evidence shows that this may not have just been an accident. The one thing that perplexes me is that so many bronze coins were found in the room; it got me thinking that these were what remained from the people of this place having to get out of there very quickly. There is this destruction all around and everything having been destroyed; there are destroyed nails that were used to hold up the top of the house. This house may have even been looted by those that were attacking the city, which then led to the house being destroyed by, possibly, arson. The destruction is very plausible in my view. But, of course, someone else could look at all this evidence and come up with their own conclusion of what happened here. The job and responsibility we are given, is to sift through all the evidence and make the best assumption that we can from the debris.
By Ryan McKeehan
In the Byzantine period a human settlement flourished along the trade-rich coast of Cyprus, only to falter under the sands of time. In excavations held over the last two decades, a large housing complex was found under the blustery fields along the sea. Within the context of a the first storey of a this complex we find “room one,” a large rectangular quadrant rife with material remains. Within this room we find specie of currency strewn across the floor, found all across the room. Combined with the coins, there are pieces of ornate designs along with nails, either indicating a large piece of furniture, or perhaps floral ceiling tiles held up by a support beam. Cookware within the room is of high quality and design. It is clear that the inhabitants of this community were of means and able to organize a gradual move to another residence with ease. It is unclear why a rich household would abruptly abandon their villa by leisurely choice, as they had accumulated their wealth such far and were most likely remiss to lose it.
Considering this, it is logical to conclude that the residents were coerced by some sort of event which led them to conclude that abandoning their mansion on the sea coast was beneficial to their health. Many theories for the sudden migration have been proposed, such as invasions, earthquakes, pestilence, or a combination of the aforementioned. Cyprus as an island in the Eastern Mediterranean was a meeting and fighting place between cultures and religions, certifying the possibility of the first one. It is an island that lies along a faultline between Europe and Africa which makes it particularly prone to earthquakes. However, I’d like to elaborate on the notion of pestilence.
Ports and ships are vectors of disease due to the human contact of the sailors with individuals in various ports for reasons of commerce or otherwise, and vermin can crowd ships or hide in steerage. Food stores gone bad also are especially prone to carrying bacteria. This settlement, along the coast, a small strategic port between two historic regions of Cyprus, was a perfect target for plague. Low standards of hygiene and a small population serving as a stop for merchants in transit would destroy most of the population and infect travelers as well as the few that managed to escape. While too late for Justinian’s Plague, it is nonetheless an intriguing suggestion for the sudden flight. The rich individuals that inhabited this villa perhaps came into contact with merchandise but not the lowly sailors off of the ships would be the last to contract the plague, with the education to recognize warning signs and the means to leave quickly.
Essentially, this is why I view this as the most likely- there would be more structural damage and less consistency in the structure if this had been an earthquake. The layout of the room was rather organized with various sectors of the room serving different purposes. Surely this would have shifted in the course of an earthquake. If this had been an invasion, the invaders would have either looted and pillaged the residence, leaving nothing or very little behind of value, which is not true due to the presence of many and ornate equipment on the floor, or they would have left this particular house alone in order to preserve the structure for their own reappropriated purposes. The latter outcome is not clear as it appears that no real change in purpose happened, and the setup was mostly left alone. Perhaps this could be offset if the invaders had left the specimens there, but since the things left are consistent with the original purpose of the room (oven fire, tables etc.) and coins in the Greek style, it might be hasty to assume this. The spectre of pestilence explains both the simple abandonment in an abrupt timeframe as well as the intact nature of the recovered artifacts.
By Daniel R. Collins
Room 1 was a part of a Christian community at Pylo-Koutsopetria in consideration of the Christian cross symbols on a number of gypsum and tile fragments. The room reflects the Christianization of the Late-Antique world. The dating of the room would likely lie in the late 5th century A.D., when a significant amount of the population of the Mediterranean world practiced Christianity, although it did not represent a majority of the followers of religion in the Late-Antique world. The building was likely related to the nearby church in relation to the number of Christian symbols in the room, perhaps it was used for storage. However, it is more likely the room was used for habitation; the objects found on the floor include bowls and the base fragments of glass vessels. In addition, the window fragments, which would allow air into the room, designate it as a place where people would want fresh air. These two pieces of evidence, which show the former presence of food in the building and temperature control (windows), show that people lived in this building until its abandonment. At some point, the windows were plastered with gypsum fragments. In an attempt to keep warm, the inhabitants would have sealed up open areas in the structure to keep the heat in the building. Furthermore, several coins were found on the floor as well, perhaps the occupants of the building were wealthy. If so, it provides an interesting story of Christianization of the people living there. Early Christianity was anti-materialistic, rejecting high social status, ambitions of power and wealth. For a rich family to convert to a religion that rejects their way of life is intriguing. Perhaps by the time of this building’s life, the principles of Christianity had changed, allowing the ownership of wealth in the faith. The building itself consisted of two floors, a ground floor, and a second floor above. The west wall supports the presence of a second floor, which is thick and greatly more strengthened than the other walls. Plus, the presence of nails, cement and tile fragments found on the floor show the probability that they came from a second floor. It is likely that the nails were used for support of the roof as pieces of wood were found in the debris. An earthquake likely caused the abandonment and fall of building. An earthquake would have been powerful enough to cause the collapse of the roof and second floor onto the ground floor. The collapse is supported by presence of many nails, wood, tile, and gypsum fragments in the center of the room. In addition, the presence of earthquakes is frequent throughout the region due to tectonic activity. The presence of coins in the room indicates that salvaging the building was near impossible. Also, an event such as an earthquake is quick and unexpected, leaving no time for the occupants to gather their valuables and flee the building. In conclusion, the existence of the Christian crosses and amount of money found in Room 1, point to an inhabited building of wealthy Christians. The practices of early Christianity rejected forms of wealth and in this building there were wealthy Christians. Such a change in practices and principles reflect to the cultural and religious transformation of the Late-Antique world.
By Nick Headland