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A Spectacular Find in Cypriot Survey

The Student Experience

It was a hot morning on the island of Cyprus as IUP senior Sara Fortnam studied the grassy terrain. A clicker in each hand, she kept count of the numerous pottery and tile pieces she found at the archaeological survey site.

Nearby, rubble piles of non-native stone hinted at the place’s grandeur in ancient history. There, among the rocks, she saw something.

Sara Fortnam and Brian Willis flank the ancient olive press discovered at Pyla-Koutsopetria

Sara Fortnam and Brian Willis flank the ancient olive press discovered at Pyla-Koutsopetria.

“It was rectangular, about two feet tall and one foot wide with a T-shaped bore hole,” said Fortnam, an Anthropology major with a history minor. “The morning I found it, I had first been in the lab at the museum, washing pottery, and saw one there.”

The object, a weight from an ancient olive press, was a spectacular find for Fortnam and the small group of IUP students who, last summer, accompanied IUP History professor Scott Moore to the Mediterranean to work on the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project. The project is a land and sea archaeology survey examining the interaction between the sea and the coastal zone on Cyprus throughout history.

Cyprus has a rich past that includes periods of Egyptian, Greek, Persian, Roman, Turkish, and British rule.

Moore chose the site near the city of Larnaka because of its geography and because it was the site of a trading center. He’s worked there each summer since 2002 and believes it may also have been the site of a Roman basilica. Cypriot museum officials have been extraordinarily helpful and plan to help publish the final report on the survey.

This year, he offered three students the chance to share his archaeological adventure, taking them halfway around the world to discover pieces of ancient history.

When they got out of the car on the first day, Moore challenged them to look at the ground around them for pieces of pottery and tile. Senior Brian Willis, a History and Archaeology major, was surprised by how rich in artifacts the site was.

“We found forty to fifty pieces by the side of the road in a five-foot area,” said Willis. “There’s just so much. We couldn’t pay attention to every little piece.”

Since the project is a survey, items are gathered without excavation. The IUP team collected about eight thousand pottery and tile pieces and chips of non-native rock, which was only about 20 percent of what they found. The collected pieces are now in a museum in Larnaka.

The team worked in 181 40-meter square areas marked by flags. Moore and the students documented where pieces were found, because pebbles of non-native rocks, when charted, can indicate the site of a building or road, leading to further discoveries.

It was the first time Kevin Eckerd, a senior with a double major in History and Political Science, had worked with archaeology, and it was his first trip out of the United States. “I definitely learned a lot there,” he said. “I have a greater appreciation for history now that I know how much goes into archaeology, which contributes to our knowledge of history in general.”

Moore’s growing expertise in archaeology got its start when he was a student and was given the chance to work on a project overseas. Now, he is offering his students a similar opportunity. “Unfortunately, costs often prevent the most qualified students from taking a trip,” he said.

To help with the costs for his students last summer, Moore sought out several sources of funding and received grants totaling about $11,000 from the IUP Provost’s office, the University Senate and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Since the same funding sources aren’t always available each year, he has established an account within the Foundation for IUP to receive tax-deductible donations from alumni and others who support the history department’s work in the Mediterranean.

“Cyprus is an incredible place. There are so many antiquities,” Dr. Moore said. “I’m looking forward to what will be discovered on the next trip and hope I can offer some students the chance to be a part of it.”