On Cyprus, and in the Mediterranean region as a whole, the urban bias of standard archaeological work has downplayed the vibrant, innovative nature of village life. Our work challenges the standard model of traditional societies as bound to custom for custom’s sake, unwilling or unable to change, locked in the past in such a way that they are out of step with the rapid pace of life in the modern world. Instead, the archaeological, historical, and ethnographic evidence clearly indicates that the people of central Cyprus have adapted to local environmental changes and to shifting political tides by taking advantage of opportunities as they arose. By applying the careful field methods of prehistoric archaeology to historic levels and looted tombs, we have both dramatically altered the way classical archaeology is done and maximized the retrieval of information. In brief, excavation has brought to light evidence of the religious, domestic, and mortuary practices of past Malloura residents. On the one hand, the work of AAP has revealed a continuous effort by residents of the valley to establish and maintain a distinct social identity through their various subsistence, religious, mortuary, and political pursuits. On the other hand, the particular emphasis on regional studies has shown how hinterlands are able to reflect the dynamic relationship between urban centers and rural regions.
Data Collection and Digital Archaeology
The Athienou Archaeological Project is committed to integrating progressive information technologies in its pursuit of understanding cultural change at ancient Malloura. Most recently we have instituted the use of Apple iPads for data recording in the field. Due to their versatility for typing, vector drawing, still photography and video, iPad digital tablets offer the archaeologist a wide variety of tools that can be employed in recording archaeological data. The 2012 season marks the advent of the “digital notebook” at Malloura. As opposed to traditional methods whereby trench supervisors would write down all field observations and interpretations by hand with pen and paper, supervisors now directly type their notes onto the iPad. Moreover, these notes can be immediately supplemented with photographs of excavated areas, digging strategies, and finds. In addition, all supplementary or reference documents, photos, plans, and drawings relevant to a supervisor’s trench can be accessed on the iPad. All of these “digital notebooks” can then be archived for subsequent analyses. Although the “digital notebook” represents a major step forward for data recording at Malloura, in future we hope to integrate digital drawings of trench plans and features, sketches of objects, and wish to experiment with real-time data recording in the project’s master database.
In addition to utilizing novel approaches to data collection, the AAP is also embracing innovative digital imaging technologies to present and interpret our excavation data. In 2013, the AAP teamed up with Brandon Olson of Boston University and R. Scott Moore of Indiana University of Pennsylvania in order to create 3D photogrammetry and laser scan images of excavated areas. At the Malloura sanctuary, Olson was able to use Agisoft software to create a series of stunning 3D images that provide the AAP with unprecedented views of excavation units from all angles (two views of EU 46 above). At the Magara Tepesi necropolis, Moore utilized a Leica LaserScan C10 to provide both interior and exterior views of Tomb 27 (see tomb images below). In future seasons, the AAP hopes to extend the use of digital imaging to objects as well as large scale plans of the entire Malloura site.
In 2014, a pilot season of a multi-phase project was initiated by AAP that employed a customized structured light scanner to produce 3D digital models of artifacts recovered from Athienou-Malloura. The creation of a 3D corpus is desirable to document artifacts and, ultimately, to address specific research questions regarding the assemblage of votive offerings from the Malloura sanctuary. For this project we worked closely with the University of Kentucky’s Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments, who constructed a DIY structured light scanner for us, in additional to a customized software set to run the hardware. By the end of this pilot season we scanned 78 artifacts from Athienou-Malloura, 61 of which were fully reconstructed with accurate surface geometry and texture. This project illustrates the possibility for, and usefulness of, moving into a world of digital artifact models that can eventually be accessed by researchers and the public alike. We hope to continue this work in forthcoming study seasons.
Archaeological conservation is an integral part of artifact recovery, object processing, and site management at the Athienou Archaeological Project. The primary goal of archaeological conservation for AAP is the stabilization of freshly excavated materials, both movable and in-situ, in order to preserve this cultural heritage for the future. Furthermore, the implementation of an overall Conservation Site Plan at Athienou-Malloura enhances the protection and maintenance of the excavated remains. (See Breuker and Breuker, 2012 “Site Conservation and Planning at Malloura” in Crossroads and Boundaries for more on AAP’s Conservation Site Plan.)
Conservation work at AAP is carried out under the supervision of professional conservators who abide by the Code of Ethics of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and follow its Guidelines for Practice. Conservation activities are designed to support the research goals of the archaeological project. Hence, treatment priorities and procedures are determined based on the condition of individual objects and their potential informational value. In addition to activities such as cleaning and reconstruction, conservation practices include providing adequate storage environments, as well as safe packing and transport for objects that are stored at an off-site repository.
Outreach and advocacy of conservation principles are an important part of the conservator’s role at AAP. Proper handling and safety are encouraged through formal demonstrations and talks for both field school students and staff members. Discussions of conservation issues and ethics are also encouraged during small group workshops and lectures, which focus on examination, documentation, basic treatments, and object processing. These activities raise awareness between allied professionals about how specialists in conservation and archaeologists can work together to discover and preserve material culture.
Opened in 2006, Athienou’s municipal building (the Kallinkeion Megaron) serves not only as town hall, but also as a state-of-the-art museum and laboratory facility for the project. Archaeological finds from Malloura and other sites have, since 2009, complemented an impressive collection of Byzantine icons, showcasing the invaluable work of AAP and a strong local commitment to preservation and presentation of the region’s rich history. The project is pleased to have such a prominent place in the town and is thrilled to be a part of bringing the Athienou’s history to life for both locals and visitors alike.