My thesis fieldwork in Cyprus (by Sarah Henley)

This past May, I traveled to Cyprus to conduct my Masters thesis research. The purpose of my research is to use portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) analyze the elemental composition of Roman and Late Roman Period (30 B.C. to A.D. 614) Cypriot Red Slip ware (CRS) sherds, which basically provides a chemical “fingerprint” for sherds made from different clay sources.  My original goal was to compare my results to naturally-occurring clay bed samples in order to investigate their origin of manufacture, as well as regional trade patterns across Cyprus and parts of neighboring Turkey.

I traveled with Dr. Robert S. Moore from the IUP History department, and Dr. William R. Caraher from the University of North Dakota History department. We spent the first night in Larnaca, Cyprus, which is located in Larnaca Bay on the southeastern part of the island. Larnaca is a somewhat noisy city, with an oceanfront full of restaurants, an ancient fort at one end, and a marina on the other. There is also a beautiful church located down the road from the fort. Throughout the city there are various types of architecture, which gives the city character. As you make your way down small alleys you can find shops and more restaurants. The beach was also nice, but not as beautiful as other places I have seen in the Mediterranean.

The next day, we traveled to Polis, which is located on the western side of the island, and to give you an idea of the island’s size it took about 3 hours to get there from Larnaca. The inner terrain of Cyprus is beautiful with the Troodos Mountains, and the southwestern coast, which both reminded me of Greece. Polis was a nice small town, and much quieter then Larnaca.  The next 4 days we worked in a small, fairly dirty, basement where all the ceramic artifacts were curated. The first day I spent running tests with CRS body sherds to figure out how to go about collecting my data. I had not anticipated for each ceramic sherd to have concretion, which are limestone deposits that accumulate on artifacts that have been in the ground for long periods of time. Concretion can only be completely removed by acid, which takes a great amount of time to remove.  The next 3 days I spent collecting my data. I tried to test areas on each sherd that had the least amount of concretion.  On May 20th we returned to Larnaca. The last 4 days we worked in a warehouse, which was cleaner then the curation building in Polis. The sherds were in bags, which were in crates that were marked by excavation unit(s). Dr. Moore had e-mailed me a list of the CRS sherds, and I pulled them from the crates, and bags. Fortunately, these sherds had less concretion on them because they were surface finds.

XRF unit (left) and example of concretion on an CRS sherd (right)

A professor from Messiah College’s history department, Dr. David K. Pettegrew, an associate of Dr. Moore and Dr. Caraher’s, brought a group of undergraduate students to Cyprus. On my last day I had the opportunity to talk to the students about pXRF and my thesis. While in Cyprus Dr. Moore showed me the sites in which the sherds I tested came from. In Polis the sherds were excavated from the porch of a Christian basilica dating to the 6th/7th century A.D. In Larnaca the sherds were collected from a Roman Period site that used to be a major southern port town.  Overall, I had a  good experience; the only down side was I was not able to collect clay bed samples as originally planned. Later in June I will be meeting with the Applied Research Lab people at IUP, who will help me to statistically statistically analyze my data.

IUP Department of Anthropology

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