Ceramics, as the most numerous and diverse category of movable archaeological material found during excavations, is an important manifestation of the activity and functioning of ancient people in their everyday lives. For archaeologists, it is an invaluable aid in establishing the chronology of archaeological strata, and it also allows reconstruction of contacts between regions, due to its wide distribution. The project is dedicated to the fine and semi-fine wares, the most luxurious categories of ceramics, including tableware, cosmetic vessels, and oil lamps, sometimes imported over long distances.
In order to properly interpret the ceramic material, a methodology integrating different research methods will be implemented. Detailed macroscopic characterisation (recorded with the naked eye or using a magnifying glass) will allow the classification of vessels, their functional, typological and chronological division. Accurate observations and descriptions of the pottery masses, will allow characterization at a basic level of production technology and suggest production sites based on published analogies. More precise scientifical methods will allow defining the exact mineral composition (petrographic analysis) and chemical composition (WD-XRF) of the ceramic mass of selected samples. This will help to identify the provenance of the studied vessels. Laboratory analyses will be conducted at the Fitch Laboratory at the British School in Athens.
The material for the study will be selected from ceramic assemblages found within two ancient cities of Cyprus – an important point on the map of ancient sea routes in the Eastern Mediterranean – Paphos and Kurion. Both of these centres, located in the southwestern part of the island, in the distance of about 60 km from each other, played an important role during the Hellenistic-Roman period (late 4th century BC – 4th century AD). In the case of Paphos, we can even speak about the functions of the capital of the island since c. 200 BC. Due to the key role of this city, excavations have been carried out on its territory for years, but a complete study of the material culture of Paphos, especially a study covering pottery imports, is still lacking. The information published so far, based on macroscopic analysis, indicates a diversity of ceramic material from all over the Mediterranean, suggesting the high status of the city and its inhabitants. Even less is known about Hellenistic and early Roman Kourion, where previous work has mainly focused on the Late Roman period and the moment when the city was destroyed by a strong earthquake in 365 AD. The aim of the proposed project, therefore, is to fill the research gap and attempt to reconstruct the patterns of supply in both centres, the actual role of Kourion during the period under study, and the relationship between the cities through the detailed analysis and comparative study of imported ceramics found in both cities. These activities will allow for a better understanding of the functioning of the two cities during that period, primarily in terms of the distribution of ceramics, reflecting consumer preferences and their social position. The comparative study of imported table ceramics from Paphos, which served as the capital, and Kourion, whose position is not well recognized, is innovative also in terms of its integrated methodology, combining archaeological and laboratory methods. Ultimately, the results of the project will be interpreted in the broader context of the role of fine and semi-fine ceramics in trade contacts in the Eastern Mediterranean and, more broadly, in the ancient economy.