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Entrance to Settlement and Sanctuary: Views from the Columbia University Excavations at Phlamoudhi, Cyprus

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The following slide show details the exhibition, Settlement and Sanctuary: Views from the Columbia University Excavations at Phlamoudhi, Cyprus, which was held in the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University from January 20-March 19, 2005. Curated by Joanna S. Smith, it featured discoveries made from 1970-1973 by a team led by the late Professor Edith Porada in the village of Phlamoudhi in northern Cyprus.

The visitor read about the history of the project and details of the team’s survey and excavations in the exhibit captions and the Guide to Phlamoudhi (by Joanna Smith, 2005), designed to lead the visitor as if that person were visiting the sites themselves. The guide is modeled on the standard series of guidebooks to archaeological sites on Cyprus.

At the opening of the exhibition, there was a symposium about the significance of the Phlamoudhi excavations for Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean from the second millennium BC to the modern day. Those papers have now been submitted to the American Schools of Oriental Research for publication. The exhibit will reopen in Cyprus in the summer of 2007, featuring the newly repatriated objects that are now in New York.

This slide show takes you through the gallery as if you were on a tour of the exhibit, which itself was intended as a tour of the sites. Melissa, the larger of the two sites was a large urban settlement of the Late Bronze Age with a central administrative building. Vounari was a trading outpost that was within Melissa’s administrative sphere. Both places were rediscovered in the Iron Age and rebuilt as cult places. Settlement continued in the region to the modern day.


Entrance to Settlement and Sanctuary: Views from the Columbia University Excavations at Phlamoudhi, Cyprus


Upon entering, the visitor sees a view of the Kyrenia Mountain range on the right and proceeds “up,” “over,” and “down” to the village of Phlamoudhi, seen in the photo in the next room.


Phlamoudhi village, looking down from the mountains toward the north. Case featuring Edith Porada to the left. Case featuring the project’s survey from 1972 to the right.


The view of the first main room of the gallery upon entering the exhibition. View of Vounari in the distance with a floor map of the site. Cases featuring the survey, the original excavation team, and the Vounari excavation appear from left to right.


The visitor enters Phlamoudhi and can find the locations investigated by the Columbia University Expedition to Phlamoudhi on the floor map of the region. This floor plan is oriented with north to the south side of the gallery. All floor plans in the exhibit have the same orientation.


Also in the first room, just on the left as the visitor enters the gallery, are cases featuring the history of the Columbia University Expedition to Phlamoudhi to the left and Edith Porada to the right. The map of Cyprus in the center was used by the original team during their travels on the island.


Contents of the history of the expedition case. The documents detail the project from its inception and implementation to its end due to the war of 1974. The documents are permits, personal correspondence, and a list of artifacts borrowed for study in New York City.


This case highlights Edith Porada’s career, focusing on her intensive interest in cylinder seals. The books are her first publication of seals in the Pierpont Morgan library, her first article on Cypriot seals, and an article in which she mentions the one cylinder seal found by the Columbia expedition. There is a photograph of the Phlamoudhi seal that is now in the Cyprus Museum and three borrowed seals from the Morgan library that are similar in subject matter and iconography. Personal correspondence, tools used by Edith Porada, and a photograph of her at work accompany the publications.


View of the survey area with the display of Vounari in the distance. The map on the wall to the right is the original of the map reproduced and enlarged on the floor.


View of the survey area and part of the team conducting survey in the foothills of the Kyrenia Mountains.


View of the first main room with the survey case to the far left. The second main room detailing the Melissa excavation is to the right. To the right in the back is the entrance to the three smaller gallery rooms featuring artistic and cultural interconnections represented at Phlamoudhi by time period.


View of the survey case. The photographs feature sites and finds from the survey. On the left in particular are views of the remarkable rock cut Hellenistic tombs at Spilios tou Tsali. To the right are images of vessels from the Archaic and Classical period tomb at Pallouri, the only part of the Phlamoudhi area excavated by Edith Porada in person.


View of the survey case contents. The article about the survey appears in the upper left, accompanied by original notebooks, photographs, and objects from surveys in the area.


View of the site of Vounari. A case featuring the members of the original Columbia expedition is in the background. The map is oriented with north pointing toward the south side of the gallery, at the same orientation and scale of the floor map of Melissa in the next room.


Case featuring the members of the original expedition. To the left are group photographs and photographs of people working at Vounari. To the right are images of people working at Melissa.


The case that accompanies photographs of the original team members contains notebooks and documents about the excavation methods used by the team. Ceramic collection and documentation, the registry book, pay sheets, and images of where people worked fill out the picture.


Case featuring the Vounari excavations. The photographs detail the site’s architecture from its original building in the Middle Cypriot III period through its abandonment in the Late Cypriot IIA period three hundred years later in the fifteenth century BC. Images of the site’s reuse in the Iron Age, from the sixth century BC into the Hellenistic period follow to the far right.


The Vounari excavation case features original notebooks, ceramics representative of the periods of the site’s use, and the 1983 publication about the site by Selma M. S. Al-Radi.


From the Vounari excavation area the visitor could enter three small rooms organized chronologically. The rooms feature cultural interconnections in the second millennium BC (Bronze Age), first millennium BC (Iron Age-Hellenistic), and first through second millennia AD (Roman-Ottoman). To the right is a view from Vounari to the site of Melissa.


View from Vounari west to Melissa. During the excavation, team members communicated by means of flashing light off of a mirror. Possibly something similar occurred in the past.


From the first main room featuring the survey and the Vounari site, the visitor can enter the second main room featuring the excavation at Melissa and thematic cases linking the two main excavation areas.


View upon entering the Melissa room. A view of the Melissa site is in the back to the left and a map of the same scale and orientation as the Vounari one is on the floor. To the left is a case featuring the Melissa excavation. To the right is a case about ceramics made at Melissa and the red-slipped ceramic tradition. In the center is a case featuring vessels, both locally made and of foreign inspiration, used for feasting at Melissa. To the back are cases featuring the large-scale storage of food and drink at Melissa and Vounari.


View of the Melissa excavation case with a view from Melissa to Vounari on the left. Even from this view, the white conical mound of Vounari is visible in the center of the photograph, emphasizing its prominence in the landscape.


The Melissa excavation case features photographs above it with details of the site’s habitation and architecture from the Middle Cypriot III period to its destruction by earthquake and fire over 500 years later in the Late Cypriot IIC period of the thirteenth century BC. To the far right are images of parts of the site reused for buildings in the Cypro-Archaic, Classical, and possibly the Hellenistic period.


The Melissa excavation case features original notebooks, photographs, and objects from the main phases of the site’s habitation.


A view of the Melissa room with the case about ceramic manufacture to the left and a case about the long-term red-slipped ceramic tradition to the right.


A reproduction of a Red-on-Black bowl is the centerpiece of the case about ceramic manufacture. Ceramics of this type – particularly open shapes that could not have served as shipping containers – were exchanged widely for their aesthetic value. Examples of the great variety of experiments and mistakes in making these vessels at Melissa contrast with the consistent “successful” products for export from Vounari.


A second view of the ceramic manufacture case with the excavation of Melissa case in the background.


View of the Melissa site. This plan is only a partial representation of the excavations because the original team did not complete the plan. The plan has since been completed using the many notebooks and photographs that document the site’s excavation. In the background are the ceramic manufacture case to the right and the case about the long-term red-slipped ceramic tradition to the left.


A view of the case about the long-term red-slipped ceramic tradition. Red-colored vessels remained prominent in northern Cyprus and along the Karpass Peninsula throughout the Bronze Age. Melissa was a place of their manufacture, both the Red-on-Black ceramics and the later so-called “Base Ring” vessels featured here to the left. These later mass produced, yet handmade vessels, became a product at the same time that the Melissa site and its monumental building expanded. Social and economic change there led to the abandonment of Vounari and resulted in an expansion of Melissa’s territory and international contacts.


View of the case about feasting to the left with cases about ceramic manufacture, their aesthetic value, and their economic importance in the background.


The feasting case features cooking vessels (in the center at the top), pouring vessels (to either side of the top piece), serving platters (to the right), and a variety of mixing (back left), and drinking vessels including a chalice. With the expansion of the Melissa site into a larger international world of trade in the fourteenth century, inhabitants obtained prized vessels from the Mycenaean world, which they added to an already rich repertoire of local and Levantine ceramics. They were important in part for feasting rituals, common by this time throughout the Mediterranean, which were important for those wanting to be recognized as parts of the international elite. The local manufacture of vessels with shapes and decorations like those imported from the Mycenaean Greek world emphasize the specific importance of those designs and how, for the first time, inhabitants of Melissa incorporated foreign objects and designs into their local repertoire. Prior to this time, Melissa, through the outlet of Vounari, had been a common exporter, but a rare importer of objects, images, and ideas from afar.


Second view of the feasting case with a closer view of Mycenaean-style vessels, including a crater, bowl, cup, and chalice. The hemispherical White Slip bowl is characteristic of vessels from the southern part of Cyprus, demonstrating the increased importance of on-island contacts for inhabitants of Melissa as well.


View from the feasting case showing the Melissa excavation case and full-size images of pithoi, or large storage vessels, of the types found at Melissa. The sandbox contains a range of ceramics of the types found at Melissa and gives the visitor a sense of their archaeological source.


View of the pithoi with two cases containing fragments of pithoi from Melissa and Vounari in the background. View of Melissa above the pithos cases.


Cases featuring pithoi with a view of Melissa that shows its position on a low rise in the foothills of the mountains, contrasting with Vounari’s stark prominence as a conical mound on a flat plain.


Middle Cypriot III through early Late Cypriot II (ca. eighteenth through fifteenth century BC) pithos fragments from Melissa (left) and Vounari (right). Large storage vessels or pithoi were used to contain liquids, dry foods, and even other ceramics. Of particular importance are vessels bearing labels, seen here in the form of raised bands of decoration, incised patterns, and impressions made by fingers and carved stamp seals. These markings signified the maker and most likely the owner of the contents of the vessels on Cyprus, although studies of similar vessels in Syria also suggest that they symbolize the quality of the contents, such as olive oil, stored in the vessels. An administrative connection between Melissa, the larger settlement, and Vounari, a trading depot is clear from many of the ceramics. Here, the use of the same stamp seal (see center row of pithos fragments) on vessels at both sites provides the earliest evidence for a regional administration on Cyprus. Similar stamp seals used at Enkomi, a site to the south of the Kyrenia Mountains may be evidence for an even broader regional administrative authority.


Pithos fragments from the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BC as well as possible fragments from the Iron Age. One, shown in a photograph is now lost, but it preserves an inscription in Cypro-Minoan, the undeciphered script of Cyprus in the Late Bronze Age. Notebook drawings and photographs detail the contexts and contents of the pithoi. Notice that the bands of decoration are uniformly finger-impressed bands, either wavy or horizontal. The vessels in the now enlarged building at Melissa are also more uniform in fabric, suggesting a more limited range of makers and owners of the vessels and, by extension, their contents. The vessels are also now at least twice and large as they were during the period when Melissa and Vounari formed parts of a regional administration. From the architecture, ceramics, imports, and changes in industry, we can tell that the Melissa settlement changed in its social structure from one emphasizing a wider-community run central building to one with greater emphasis on a narrower focus of control by a single individual or family. Whether the settlement developed other specialized centers of activity is unknown at the present time. Melissa is the only site on the island to preserve detailed evidence for architectural form and use and social change over the more than 500 year-period that constitutes the urban form of Bronze Age Cyprus.


Pithos cases in the background. To the right is a case featuring the botanical remains and animal bones from Melissa and Vounari.


A variety of animal and plant remains were recovered by the Columbia expedition. Fish, shellfish, cow, sheep, and goat were all consumed by the inhabitants. Orchard crops, particularly olives, but also figs and almonds, were the staple agricultural produce. Large quantities of olives and, to judge from a pressing area found, also olive oil were stored in the pithos vessels at Melissa. This oil fueled the fire following the earthquake that destroyed the Bronze Age Melissa settlement. Remains of burnt pine, olive, and other hardwood timbers were uncovered in the excavations. Landscape photographs, permits, and a section drawing accompany animal bones and botanical remains from the excavations.


Case about technologies at Melissa and Vounari. With the abandonment of Vounari came several changes at Melissa. Among them was the introduction of metallurgy. No smelting took place; instead residents melted existing bronze objects to recycle them into new shapes. Fragments of bronze tools, a bellows, and slag appear to the left. Most bronze at Vounari is from the Iron Age, including arrows, possibly votive objects. Weights and bronze styli for writing on waxed tablets were found in the storage area of Melissa, providing additional evidence for administration in that building. Potmarks from various time periods, at the top in the middle of the case, represent the pre-firing labels of potters working at Melissa. Spindle whorls appropriate for making woolen threads come from all period at Melissa. The only loom weights are Hellenistic in date and may be votives placed at Vounari. Possible stands for slow pottery turntables, grinding stones, and stone axes attest to a range of possible industries.


View of the Melissa room with the technology case to the left. In the far distance on the left is a case featuring the publication team.


Case featuring the Phlamoudhi Archaeological Project team, first active in 2000. On the left is the manual for studying ceramics used by the team in 2002. On the wall are photogrqphs of team members working in New York and on Cyprus.


Case featuring the Phlamoudhi Archaeological Project. Correspondence and a budget for the project appear on the left. Tools and the procedure for working with the ceramics fill the middle and right side of the case.


View from the Melissa room to the middle of the three small galleries spaces. The gallery space in the back features Iron Age artistic and cultural interconnections.


The first of three smaller gallery spaces. This room features Middle and Late Bronze Age connections among Phlamoudhi, Cyprus and the Levantine and Aegean worlds.


A case of Cypriot and Levantine ceramics that are similar in shape and decoration demonstrate the long-term close artistic connections between the two places throughout the Bronze Age history of Phlamoudhi.


Ceramics from the Mycenaean world, including Mycenaean Crete, come only from Melissa, Vounari having been abandoned by the time of their first import in the fourteenth century BC. A large stirrup jar from Crete in the back left held oil. A smaller stirrup jar to the middle left and a beaked juglet in the middle second from right from the region of Mycenae held perfumed oil. Mycenaean style vessels made on Cyprus, in some cases at Enkomi, a large urban center south of the Kyrenia Mountains, mimic and adapt details of the imports. For example the stirrup jar, second from left, is actually a juglet with a hole punched through the top for a spout.


Bronze Age figurine case. Two vessels borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cesnola Collection (at top) provide complete views of askoi similar to a fragment in the lower right from Melissa. A small horse figure in the central photo from Melissa may have been a figure placed inside a storage vessel as a talisman to guard its contents, a practice also known in the Aegean world.


One human figure from Vounari is similar in style to several from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cesnola Collection. Often placed in tombs, but also used in domestic contexts, these figures are usually considered to be fertility symbols. Whether or not that is correct, the Vounari piece is of particular interest because it comes from an Iron Age context. It may well have been found in a tomb in the area in antiquity and rededicated in the Iron Age. This practice is known from several sites, but normally the Bronze Age objects dedicated in the Iron Age are ceramic vessels rather than human figures.


Iron Age through Hellenistic room. View of a case featuring the reuse of Melissa from the Archaic period in the sixth century BC. Notebooks and ceramics fill out the picture of a rectangular building with a porch that might have been part of a sanctuary at the site.


Photographs of terracotta and stone figurines from Melissa and now in the Cyprus Museum fill out the picture of the reuse of Melissa from the Archaic to the Hellenistic period as a cult place, possibly dedicated to the female goddess of Cyprus, who came to be known as Aphrodite. Several of the mold-made figures are interesting because they appear to have been made with secondary molds. These molds may have been formed using figures from sanctuaries south of the Kyrenia Mountains, such as at Salamis and Ayios Iakovos.


Iron Age through Hellenistic room. View of a case featuring the reuse of Vounari from the Archaic period in the sixth century BC. A votive bell and jugets in the center of the case, bowls, and amphorae formed parts of the assemblage from the cult space and later the platform built there.


Photographs of stone statuettes and a statue as well as a terracotta figurine from Vounari and now in the Cyprus Museum fill out the picture of the reuse of Vounari from the Archaic to the Hellenistic period as a cult place.


Photographs of figural sculpture from Melissa and Vounari flank a case of pieces borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cesnola Collection. The figurines and statuettes in this case a similar in style to several pieces from Phlamoudhi and fill out the picture based on the fragmentary remains from the excavations.


Second view of the case of Cesnola terracottas. One example from Columbia University’s Art Properties, a man riding a horse, is in the foreground.


View of the Roman through Ottoman period room with a view back into the Iron Age and Bronze Age rooms.


Photographs of Roman through Medieval remains from Phlamoudhi found in the survey and excavation. When the Ayia Melissa church was built is not known, but it stands near the Melissa site and was part of a larger settlement before the village moved to the present village of Phlamoudhi.


Case featuring samples of Roman, Byzantine, Medieval, and Ottoman ceramics from the excavations at Melissa. The notebook features the remains of a Roman period structure found just under the surface at Melissa.


Case of Roman period lamps from Melissa and Vounari. The red-slipped mold-made examples come from Vounari. Particularly interesting is that some were made in secondary molds, which were in turn based on imported lamps. Further evidence for local manufacture of lamps comes from Melissa. Some of the examples on the right were improperly fired and would not have been appropriate for export beyond their place of manufacture. One lamp, bottom fourth from the right, features the lower torso of Venus.