|Caraher, students return to Cyprus for archaeological survey|
William Caraher studies history – hands on. He and an international team of archaeologists, experts, and students have found more than 10,000 shards of ancient pottery and other artifacts around a former coastal community on the island of Cyprus. He and his team are in Cyprus through June 30 for an archaeological survey.
According to Caraher, the site is just the place to study and discover new things about the Roman Empire, its people, and its interaction with other cultures. Now part of a British military base, the site of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project (PKAP) has densely scattered artifacts from the late Roman period, around 400-700 AD.
“Cyprus is an amazing, really unique, place,” because of its history as a crucial trade and political crossroads, said Caraher, an assistant professor of history, who co-directs PKAP along with Scott Moore, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania historian. Even today, Cyprus, a land divided into Turkish and Greek zones and monitored by a permanent contingent of United Nations peacekeepers, is a busy place, most recently as a transit point for refugees from the Israeli-Lebanese conflict.
“It’s a key spot in this part of the world and has endured many conquests — just the place to study and discover new things about the Roman Empire and the cultures that it intersected with,” Caraher said. “For nearly a thousand years, Cyprus was a vital part of a widespread trading network that still exists today.”
Caraher and his team hope to learn how the Roman economy was structured and how trading networks functioned throughout the Mediterranean. Because there are so few written works about the ancient world compared to our world today, historians use a wide array of sources to learn more about the ancient world, said Caraher. And one of them is archaeology.
On Cyprus, the archaeological site is home to artifacts left over by the area’s rural inhabitants, mostly farmers, around 1,200 to 1,500 years ago. The former coastal community was somewhere between the size of an agricultural village and a city in the ancient world, Caraher said, about equal to Grand Forks or Bismarck in North Dakota.
The study involves scholars and graduate students from UND, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Messiah College. Because the site is fairly large, the team uses a technique called “intensive pedestrian survey,” which Caraher says is a fancy word for systematic walking of the landscape. They use Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, intensively to ensure that they leave no area uncharted and to document the location of artifacts.
The artifacts are documented, bagged, cleaned, and studied in a local museum with the cooperation and assistance of the Cyprus Department of Antiquities. The goal, said Caraher, is to learn more about daily life in ancient times, as well as to chronicle trade in the Mediterranean.
And, he said, archaeology is a process. “You can learn as much from practicing archaeology as you can from the product.”
For more information, visit www.chss.iup.edu/pkap , or follow the team in Cyprus on his blog at http://mediterraneanworld.typepad.com/ . You can also read more about Caraher and his work at http://www.discovery.und.edu/fall_2006/meticulous.html.
-- Jan Orvik, Writer/Editor, University Relations, email@example.com, 777-3621