Life at the Furnace:
Copper smelting ecosystems in the north-western Troodos (LAF)
LAF provides a historical perspective on Responsible consumption and production (UN Sustainable Development Goal 12) and the largely untapped potential of archaeology to contribute significantly to the current debate on global issues of sustainability.
LAF explores the human-environment intertwinement, the symbiotic relationship between people and landscapes changed by the extraction of valuable resources over the past 4500 years.
The aim is to identify anthropogenic impact on the landscape through a diachronic perspective exploring the relationship between mining and settlement decision-making.
Life at the Furnace is a landscape archaeological project working in the north-western Troodos Mountains of Cyprus. It has a particular focus on the complex human and environmental impacts of large-scale copper production during the foreign control of Cyprus under the Roman Empire from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD. The project will study how the choices that supported copper production affected the landscape and living conditions and their sustainability. An in-depth study of food supply, agriculture, mining and forestry, imported goods and colonial relations will further reveal life at the furnace and place Cyprus within the economic network of the Roman Empire.
The project provides a historical perspective on Responsible consumption and production (UN Sustainable Development Goal 12). Life at the Furnace is designed to grapple with the largely untapped potential of archaeology to contribute significantly to the current debate on global issues of sustainability. The study will show if and how sustainability was achieved in the relationship between consumption and production within a colonial setting.
Archaeological and geophysical survey will map human traces on and below the surface. Geoarchaeological survey (coring) will map the sedimentary record and archaeo-botanical studies will record changes in vegetation in the past. Geochemical analysis of products and by-products of copper mining and smelting will be used to investigate pollution. Studies of artefacts and ancient written sources will tie it all together.
Settlement ecology emphasizes natural environmental variables such as subsistence resources, other raw materials needed for comfort and health, and materials for exchange. Crucial elements comprise subsistence and surplus production, distribution and consumption, population density, ecological change and environmental setting. However, mining, forestry and agriculture are social processes, and their organization plays a key role in the shaping of settlement characteristics, spatial organization and land transformation.
Data is built from a combination of state of the art intensive and extensive side-by-side archaeological surface survey, topographical survey and a suite of geophysical survey techniques, e.g. ground penetrating radar and resistance survey in the Peristerona Valley with the aim of identifying: 1) anthropogenic structures associated with the smelting and mining operations to tease out settlement organisation and density; as well as 2) anthropogenic impact on the landscape through a diachronic perspective exploring the relationship between mining and settlement decision-making. The analyses explore the relationship between mining, smelting and settlement decision-making around subsistence (production, storage and transport of foodstuffs); living and dying (consumption; settlement density and organisation e.g. proximity to the slag heap); moving (proximity to resources e.g. ore, wood and water) and exchange (imports).
Copper production does not exist in isolation. It requires raw materials, different resources, and labour as well as consumers embedding the settlements involved in an ever-expanding network. LAF’s methodology seeks to test the hypothesis of sustainable management of LULC through geoarchaeological survey. The sedimentary record together with the study of phytoliths and pollen will be used to reconstruct geomorphological and anthropogenic changes during the late Holocene by coring transects across the Peristerona Valley. Luminescence dating supplemented and complemented by radiocarbon dating will provide chronological control. Recent studies from Cyprus have shown that luminescence dating of feldspars is a dependable alternative to quartz dating. Phytolith analysis will be the primary method of studying past flora with pollen contributing where extant. The chrono-stratigraphically controlled sedimentological record will provide insights into sedimentation/erosion rates and LAF will build a 3D model using GIS. Anthropogenic influence will be studied through a diachronic perspective focussing within the later Holocene period to determine the environmental impact of centuries of human exploitation, and whether there is evidence for (un)sustainable practices in specific periods.
Choices about consumption and production are, of course, not only local. At least in the early Roman period, the mines of Cyprus were owned by the Roman emperor. To understand the impact on regional Cypriot economies postcolonial theory will be applied to address the unequal power relations representative of colonial situations, which characterize mining in Cyprus since the 3rd c. BC. Imperial power and interests in the island waxed and waned, and productions may have fluctuated accordingly. Heritage data from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition to the coastal city Soli (1927-31) housed in the Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm will allow us to determine the level of synchronicity between the hinterland, this gateway community and the Empire. Soli is located in the Turkish occupied zone inaccessible to research since 1974. The ceramics have never been studied in detail. Spatial Network analysis will be applied to the ceramics from Soli and the Cypriot copper production landscapes to map the exchange comparing planar spatial networks of infrastructure and non-planar spatial networks of social significance to understand the reciprocal impact of the inclusion of Cyprus within the Roman economic network both in the early High Empire (1st-3rd c.) as well as in the Christian Eastern Empire (4th-7th c.). In addition, a new ground-breaking methodology combining ceramic production techniques and typology provides a way to study the changes associated with the transition from the Late Roman Empire into the Medieval period, which have hitherto been considered a gap period in the archaeological record.
The project is co-directed by Kristina Winther-Jacobsen and Angus Graham and draws on the individual research of the project directors in pottery studies and geoarchaeological research and their holistic interpretation of landscapes.
Thilo Rehren will lead the metallurgical survey of ore and slag samples to determine the provenance of the raw materials necessary to understand the spatial aspects and decision-making of metal production.
Myrsini Gkouma will investigate the geomorphological history of the landscape together with Evi Margaritis, who will coordinate the study of the past flora to understand land use land cover change.
Kristian Strutt and Dominic Barker will carry out the topographical and geophysical survey to identify anthropogenic structures associated with the smelting and mining operations to tease out settlement organisation and density.
Smadar Gabrieli will re-evaluate landscape use and occupation during the transition from antiquity into the medieval period.
John Lund will investigate the consequences of exploitation by foreign powers of the natural resources of their colonies through archaeological and historical data
The PhD student will study heritage data from the coastal city, Soli, which will allow us to determine the level of synchronicity between the hinterland and this gateway community
Luke Sollars will be in charge of database design, data management and publication.
LAF draws on an advisory academic board consisting of:
Professor John Bintliff, University of Edinburgh
Research Professor Karin Frei, National Museum, Copenhagen
Senior Lecturer Michael Given, University of Glasgow
Associate Professor Frida Hastrup, Centre for Sustainable Future, University of Copenhagen.
Professor Vasiliki Kassianidou, University of Cyprus
LAF is an international collaboration between researchers from the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen, the National Museum (Copenhagen), Uppsala University, Lund University, Medelhavsmuseet (National Museums of World Cultures, Stockholm), University of Southampton, the Cyprus Institute, and the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus.
K. Winther-Jacobsen 2022. Mining the hinterland. Ceramic assemblages and material connections in Roman North-western Cyprus and beyond, Annual of the British School at Athens 117.
John Lund, Cypriot connectivity from the Late Classical to the Roman periods. A diachronic perspective, in: G. Bourogiannis (ed.), Beyond Cyprus: Investigating Cypriot Connectivity in the Mediterranean from the Late Bronze Age to the End of the Classical Period, Athens 2022, 553-563.
Angus Graham; Associate Professor, Uppsala University
Evi Margaritis; Associate Professor, Cyprus Institute
Myrsini Gkouma; Postdoc, Cyprus Institute
Thilo Rehren; Professor, Cyprus Institute
Kristian Strutt; Experimental Officer, Southampton University
Dominic Barker; archaeological technicial, Southampton University
Smadar Gabrieli, Independent Scholar
John Lund; Senior researcher, National Museum Copenhagen
Luke Sollars, Archaeological data manager
Tønnes Bekker Nielsen, Lektor emeritus, SDU
Daniel Löwenborg, Associate Professor, Uppsala University
Roser Marsal Aguilera, postdoc, University of Barcelona.
Amber Hood, Researcher, Lund University