West KarkotisAtsasMandresAsinouKoutraphasLagoudheraEast
Iron Age 

4.3 Karkotis Valley: Hellenistic-Roman

The Hellenistic and Roman periods in the Karkotis Valley have striking amounts of material, not least the 2084 identifiable sherds that we collected in survey units. Looking at the period as a whole, the densities in the northern half of the valley are clearly much higher and totally continuous. There is nothing in the surface stability or erosion type data to suggest this is an artefact of geomorphological processes. Similarly, the small field plots that have been a characteristic of the area at least since the mid-Ottoman period stop any large-scale 'smearing' of artefact concentrations across a wide area (Christodoulou 1959, 74). This is very clear in the 1963 aerial photographs.

A characteristic area of relatively low density pottery which we examined in detail is at Dodekaskala (TS11). This is a series of agricultural fields on the oldest and most elevated of the Karkotis River's alluvial terraces on the eastern side of the valley. There is a relatively low density and even scatter in the centre and south of the area, rarely more than 5 sherds per 100m². For the Hellenistic-Roman period pottery as a whole, this tends to be what we expect from intensive cultivation, manuring and dumping round settlements.

The rather greater densities in the north-west corner suggest that we are approaching the edge of a settlement or estate. Most of this material is Late Roman. As usual in our survey area where there are large densities of Late Roman material, there are a few pieces of Early Roman within it, in this case cooking wares (e.g. TCP186).

In terms of preservation and diversity of material, our best evidence for Roman-period settlement comes from Pano Limna, on the western edge of the valley (TS15). The survey units in the alluvial fields at the base of the ridge show densities of up to 48 sherds per 100m². Even in this very pottery-rich period, that is a much more substantial density than can be explained by manuring or refuse dumping.

There is evidence for an actual settlement on the lowest hillslope immediately to the west, just to the south of the Iron Age sanctuary. This consists of an in situ wall exposed by bulldozing, a series of housing platforms, degraded mud brick, and a dense pottery scatter.

TP252 Katydhata Pano Limna

The section exposed by the bulldozer at Pano Limna shows a two-course rubble foundation wall, with melted mud brick and slope wash above it and 54 Late Hellenistic and Roman sherds eroding out of it (TP252). The difference in soil texture of this whole area suggests that much of the soil derives from melted mud brick.

Immediately to the north of the exposed wall was a series of terraces some 80m long. These were clearly housing platforms rather than for agriculture: they were cut right back to the bedrock across their width and, judging by the sherd preservation, had never been ploughed. Resistivity survey over one of these showed a right-angled linear anomaly, the two legs measuring c. 7m and c. 6m. This is very likely another building. To all the domestic activities associated with this settlement we can add a series of 13 tombs 100m to the south, most of them apparently Late Roman (TP129).

The scatter of chipped stone round Pano Limna is similar to other light scatters found across much of the Karkotis Valley. These are commonly associated with areas of Roman pottery, most clearly at Skouriotissa Psephtas (TS13) 1.8km to the north. People at this period were clearly making sharp unretouched flake tools from simple cores of local jasper and chalcedony.

From Pano Limna the whole eastern horizon is dominated by the massive form of Skouriotissa mine. At its western base lies the most striking evidence for any past activity in the whole survey area: a Late Roman slag heap up to 19m high, 50m wide and 330m long (TP007).

TP007 Skouriotissa Vouppos

The slag heap is composed mainly of whole or fragmented slag cakes, each one the product of a team of workers. This team built the furnace, loaded it with ore and flux, stoked it with charcoal, pumped the bellows, gauged its progress and broke it open after the smelt was finished to extract the ingot and discard the slag. The layers in the exposed section of the slag heap show clear evidence for successive working floors and for the careful management of the waste, including its fragmentation and careful stacking.

Eroding out of these layers were large quantities of Late Roman pottery, which date the smelting activity conclusively to the 5th-7th centuries. Particularly striking were the tablewares, the highest concentration of Late Roman 1 amphorae in the survey area, and a fragment of a North Palestinian amphora (TCP563). The high number of pan tiles (6 types) and cover tiles (5 types) attest to substantial structures in the area. Given the probable chronological range of the tiles, they may represent one or two buildings that were rebuilt and reused over a considerable period.

The Skouriotissa area showed traces for other activities associated with copper production in the Late Roman period, in spite of the vast scale of the modern open-cast mine which has obliterated most of the evidence. The slag distribution shows clearly the spread of this material from the slag heap, though given its 20th-century exploitation as road metalling material, much of this movement might be post-Roman.

TP172 Skouriotissa Kitromilia

Associated mining activities include another, much smaller, slag heap (TP172) and a remarkable dump of Roman amphorae discovered during the modern mining operation (TP171) (Bruce et al. 1937, 663; Kassianidou 2000, 753). These may have been for baling water out of the mine, and also for transporting food to the mineworkers. The same types have been found at Pano Limna across the valley (TS15).

The substantial densities of Hellenistic-Roman pottery and tile north-west and south-west of the slag heap suggest where the smelters and other mineworkers were living. This is dominated by Late Roman, but as usual there are small, isolated areas of Early Roman. As well as working and living, people were also burying their family members and co-workers. This is demonstrated by the substantial numbers of tombs in the area of Skouriotissa and Katydhata (e.g. TP127).

The Roman period, and the Late Roman period in particular, shows excellent evidence for a wide range of activities across the landscape of the Karkotis Valley, and for the organisation that linked the network together. At the most local level, this includes the chaines opératoire of farming, smelting, pottery and tile making, and building. These were linked to each other by the transport of foodstuffs and copper, and by constant movement, travel and exchange.