The “Earthquake House” in Cyprus

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Erin Daughters, Tandy Institute for Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Platt Fellowship Recipient 

Every day at Kourion, Cyprus, thousands of tourists arrive to see the beautiful mosaics, monumental buildings, baths, and theatre. My little sliver of Kourion, located to the southeast of the major architecture, is less visited. We have a few groups come by occasionally. We talk to the tourists about our methodology, joke about the heat, and send them in the direction of the Kourion Museum in nearby Episkopi.IMG_0476

We are digging in the area around the so-called “Earthquake House,” a multi-room complex destroyed in a 4th century quake. The house was first discovered in a test trench by John Daniel in the 1930s. It was later excavated in the mid-1980s during Dr. David Soren’s investigation of the nearby Sanctuary of Apollo. My own advisor, Dr. Tom Davis, served as field director for two of those years.

Call me an archaeology nerd, but the excavation history fascinates me almost as much as the history of the site itself. This year, we often used articles and pictures from previous excavations to make informed decisions about our own dig. This worked well, as long as we made sure not to dictate any of our own preconceptions on the site. A recent dissertation by my friend and colleague, Dr. Ben Costello, was invariably helpful.

We opened up one trench in the Earthquake House this year. The trench was set in what had been earlier identified as an open courtyard. The first day of digging we hit wall tumble from the earthquake. We dug tumble for about two weeks straight. If you haven’t had the pleasure of articulating tumble for days on end, let me tell you, your back feels it right away.

We eventually found a secondary wall — it wasn’t an open courtyard after all — and with the help of notes from previous excavations, we predicted the location of a packed dirt surface within only a few centimeters.DSCN0243

Our exploration of the Earthquake House is far from complete. Each season, we learn more about the southern hillside and the late Roman occupation of Kourion. I love this site, and am excited that I, too, am becoming a part of a long and fruitful excavation history. I hope someday my own field notes will be of value to another generation of graduate student excavators at Kourion.

I’m grateful for the generosity of ASOR and the Platt Foundation in granting me the fellowship. I’d also like to thank Dr. Tom Davis, Bill Weir, Frank Garrod, my square supervisor Laura Swantek, and the rest of the KUSP 2013 excavation team for a great season.

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