You are here

Vasilikos Valley Project 10: The Field Survey of the Vasilikos Valley. Vol. 2, Artefacts Recovered by the Field Survey

April 2020 (124.2)

Book Review

Vasilikos Valley Project 10: The Field Survey of the Vasilikos Valley. Vol. 2, Artefacts Recovered by the Field Survey

Edited by Ian A. Todd (SIMA 71.10). Uppsala: Åströms Förlag 2016. Pp. xxxviii + 412. €88. ISBN 978-91-7081-209-5 (cloth).

Reviewed by

The final publication of a regional survey project is always a cause for celebration, even more so when it brings to light legacy data generated, studied, and analyzed over the course of several decades. This 10th volume in the Vasilikos Valley Project (VVP) series, in this respect, marks a rich occasion, offering in a single work the study of tens of thousands of finds that date from the Neolithic to the mid 20th century, collected by the VVP mainly between 1976 and 1989. As the final installment in a three-volume set dedicated to the pedestrian survey, the new tome complements earlier volumes describing the survey’s methods and background (I. Todd, Vasilikos Valley Project 9: The Field Survey of the Vasilikos Valley. Vol. 1, Sävedalen, Sweden 2004) and the interpretation of geography, settlement, and land use in the valley (I. Todd, Vasilikos Valley Project 12: The Field Survey of the Vasilikos Valley. Vol. 3, Human Settlement in the Vasilikos Valley, Uppsala 2013). Read alongside publications of sites excavated by the VVP, this work provides glimpses of the materials, settlements, and connectedness of the Vasilikos Valley, a coastal and inland valley midway between the ancient cities of Amathus and Kition on the island of Cyprus.

The substance of VVP 10 is a fulsome presentation of survey finds. On this level, the work succeeds admirably. Beautifully illustrated and clearly organized, the volume reflects careful editing and patient study, relentless analysis, and polished writing by eight specialists. A brief introductory update by Todd on the devastating effects of further industrial development on the region—a theme of earlier volumes in the series—gives way to gloriously detailed studies that unfold in two parts. The greater share of the book is dedicated to the study of ceramics (section A), with chapters falling into six successive chronological groupings: Neolithic–Chalcolithic (Joanne Clarke), Early–Middle Bronze Age (Mara T. Horowitz), Late Bronze Age (Alison South), Geometric–Archaic (Anna Georgiadou), Classical–Late Roman (Marcus Rautman), and Medieval to modern (Bethany Walker). The final four chapters (section B) abandon the chronological arrangement to focus on object classes, including especially chipped stone (Carole McCartney) and groundstone (Todd), but also small finds (Todd). Two brief appendixes (Joanna S. Smith) round out the study in detailing a Classical–period stamp seal and a wall bracket with a Cypro-Minoan sign; a long third appendix (Todd), a catalogue of groundstone and small finds, is available for download from the publisher’s website. Copious supporting materials—67 tables and 90 maps, bar graphs, and, above all, ceramic profiles—are included, while some 172 color and black-and-white images of objects (primarily stone tools and bowls) bookend the text. Altogether the new volume provides a goldmine of artifacts and assemblages that is sure to interest ceramicists and lithicists, as well as archaeologists specializing in the material culture of Cyprus.

The collection clearly has the most to offer prehistorians since roughly half of the text in section A is concerned with prehistoric pottery and sites, while the remainder of the text (section B) frequently returns to discussions of the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Bronze Age at prehistoric sites in the region. Indeed, the extensive treatment of prehistoric artifacts, assemblages, and distributions establishes the broader context of prehistoric habitation and artifacts in a valley already well known through VVP excavations at sites such as Kalavasos Village, Kalavasos-Ayious, Kalavasos-Ayios Dhimitrios, and Kalavasos-Tenta. Yet this emphasis on prehistory does not mean the neglect of historical periods, which are surveyed in several chapters. Among others, Georgiadou’s chapter on Cypro-Geometric to Cypro-Archaic pottery tackles an important question about the relationship of settlement in the Vasilikos Valley to the developing city of Amathus, while Walker’s study of the Early Byzantine to colonial periods (650–1960 CE) offers an outstanding overview of the corpus of medieval and post-medieval pottery—an analysis that draws attention to elements of both consumption and global connectivity.

Like many specialist volumes, the presentation of finds in VVP 10 bears an unevenness that reflects the individualized conventions of analysis and the goals of different contributors. The chapters have some things in common, of course: each typically begins with an introduction that frames its content and ends with a catalogue of objects from different survey sites, while its main content addresses questions surrounding regional wares (or object types) and their distribution; the meaning underlying the presence or absence of artifact classes; and apparent relationships with other sites in the region, island, and Mediterranean. Nonetheless, content, approach, and description vary widely. Discussions of spatial patterns and quantitative data are uneven, for example, with some essays embracing quantification and statistical analysis (e.g., McCartney’s study of prehistoric lithics, 217–243, or Horowitz’s computation of EBA–MBA sherd counts by wares, 34–35) and others eschewing it (e.g., South’s study of LBA pottery, 71). The presentation of artifacts from chapter to chapter and the catalogues themselves vary in their approach, emphasis, thoroughness, and descriptive detail.

These differences in the essays are understandable considering the individualized framework for presentation, but in the absence of signposting and interchapter references, the volume as a whole lacks integration. A summary introduction of methods and collection procedures (e.g., judgment sampling), their impact on the character of assemblages and catalogues presented, and an historical overview of the work of analysis would greatly assist readers in assessing the significance of the published collections of artifacts. Indeed, the relationship between the objects selected for presentation in the catalogue and the kinds, quantities, and distribution of artifacts observed on the surface of the landscape is opaque and invites further explanation. The absence of a concluding chapter likewise leaves readers with the burden of piecing together consistent elements in the diachronic history of the territory, such as regional connectedness, frequent reuse of sites, and continuing land use and settlement. In the end, the volume never becomes greater than the sum of its parts; it remains a specialist collection written for informed experts on different material classes. Readers will need to juxtapose VVP 9 and VVP 12 with this new publication to arrive at a coherent synthesis of the patterns of survey evidence produced by its methods.

Nonetheless, VVP 10 provides a treasure trove of analyzed artifacts from the southern coast of Cyprus. The substantial catalogues of ceramics and stone objects, the frequent presentation of the survey finds alongside studies of locally excavated contexts, and the detailed analyses of wares and typologies of specific periods make this publication a valuable resource for all archaeological research on the island.

David K. Pettegrew
Department of History
Messiah College

Book Review of Vasilikos Valley Project 10: The Field Survey of the Vasilikos Valley. Vol. 2, Artefacts Recovered by the Field Survey, edited by Ian A. Todd
Reviewed by David K. Pettegrew
American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 124, No. 2 (April 2020)
Published online
DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1242.Pettegrew 

Add new comment

Plain text

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.