SCY101 : Politiko Phorades 2

Roman Estate

Grid reference: 519500/3875100
Cadastral plan:
Survey units: 1599-1615
SIA: SIA 7 (Politiko Kokkinorotsos)


The terraced knoll from the north, with the upper Kouphos Valley directly behind

Pockets of agriculture in the igneous pillow lava zone, near Politiko.
(Photograph: Michael Given)

Some 500 m north of Phorades lies a small multi-terraced knoll, about 150 m in diameter, which rises steeply on its north face to a height of about 20 m and enjoys a commanding view of agricultural fields stretching 300-500 m farther north and west. To the east is a narrow terraced field, and to the south the knoll slopes gently towards the copper smelting workshop at Phorades. SCY101 is ideally situated along a communication corridor that runs approximately 4 km north to Tamassos. The pottery recovered ranges in date from the Iron Age to the Late Roman Period. Subsequent visits to SCY101 also uncovered fine wares from the Classical through Late Roman periods.

Dense concentrations of mainly Roman pottery and tile fragments were found on the northern and eastern slopes; few finds were seen on the southern slope and none on the western. From the top of the knoll down its steep northern slope there was a quantity of what seemed to be building rubble; the large size and quantity of these stones, some of which seem to have been worked, exceed what we would expect for use in terrace walls. These stones were most likely brought into the site, as there is no stone of similar type in the Kouphos drainage; the likely origin is the diabase dikes exposed in drainages to the south. Numerous large lichens on the exposed surfaces of these stones enabled geomorphologist Jay Noller to use a preliminary lichen dating curve (based on findings of lichens on dated surfaces elsewhere in the survey area) which suggested a period of about 1500 years for their exposure and use.

Although Early Roman material is never found in quantity in the SCSP survey area, the eastern side of the knoll (Unit 1599) contained several Early Roman fine wares, dated AD 50-250, perhaps indicating some sort of affluence at this location. Late Roman pottery sherds predominate at SCY101, in both weight and number. This material was found all along the northern, eastern and southern slopes. Despite the quantity of Late Roman material, and unlike the Early Roman period, there were relatively few sherds of fine ware (most came from imports such as African Red Slip and Phocaean Red Slip wares). This lack of fine wares also contrasts with most other Late Roman assemblages known from the survey area. The most common Late Roman sherds were amphora, basin and pithos fragments, all arguably agricultural storage vessels, perhaps not surprising given the location in the midst of a large section of arable land. The surrounding agricultural fields only show significant pottery densities to the north and east, towards Tamassos, and these densities are much lower than the density of sherds on the slopes of the knoll.

Another interesting feature of SCY101 is the large quantity of tile fragments, again primarily distributed along the northern and eastern slopes of the knoll, with very little at the top of the knoll or on the western and southern slopes. For example, Unit 1605, a narrow terrace approximately 80 m in length and situated halfway down the northern slope of SCY101, had 155 tile fragments, most quite large in size. Most of these fragments date from the 4th-6th centuries AD. The near absence of slag, otherwise common throughout the SCSP universe, must also be considered. Despite its location not more than 400 m from the mines and ore bodies of SIA 7, SCY101 produced only 13 slag fragments on and around the knoll.

Based on a broad array of evidence gathered by different specialists, we can suggest that SCY101 was inhabited from the Iron Age through the end of late antiquity. The rubble and numerous building tiles suggest the existence of a few small buildings on the northern and perhaps eastern slopes of the knoll during the 4th-6th centuries AD. The function of these buildings is unclear. There were no Late Roman cooking wares (e.g., 'frying pans') typical of other large Late Roman assemblages in the SCSP region. Were these few small buildings used by individuals who farmed in the nearby plains? Although the site is located near several copper mines, there is no obvious connection between the two, and SCY101 seems to have been involved primarily in agriculture, as a large farmstead or estate, or perhaps as a support village for those who worked the mines. The physical landscape reveals that it was easy for the people who lived here to obtain supplies or to sell, exchange or disperse their produce at Tamassos, only 4 km away, which we know had a basilica and bishopric during the 4th-5th centuries AD.