Maria Michael - 2018 - University of Southampton PhD Scholar

Maria EulaliaIn January 2018, having secured an HFF doctoral scholarship, I started the PhD programme at the University of Southampton, under the supervision of Dr Julian Whitewright and Dr Jaco Weinstock. The PhD thesis is entitled “The tradition of fishery and fishing gear on the island of Cyprus”.

My PhD thesis intends to re-consider the theoretical and methodological approaches applied for reconstructing fishing  techniques and activities within the region of the Mediterranean basin and beyond, in order to develop a new methodological scheme, which could be applied in the archaeological context of fishing communities in Cyprus throughout the time.

This is essential for interpreting correctly materials related to fishing in Cyprus, because, as Honor Frost (1985) emphasizes, these materials are indicators of an archaeologically neglected aspect of any maritime communities, namely its fishery, because they have mostly been ignored or are incorrectly classified.

Consequently, the primary aim of my research is to achieve a comprehensive, diachronic compilation and recording of all the available evidence for fishing equipment, such as harpoons or spears, hooks, traps, stone, clay and lead weights for net or line. Furthermore, identified fish remains or any other finds related to fishing activities (e.g. selected iconographical and written evidence and architectural installations) have been recorded, but they serve as a supporting class of evidence to determine the development of the fishing technologies diachronically. Environmental, marine biological and ethnographic data are also used for a better understanding of the formative phases of fishery on the island over the time. All the records are archived on a database, which will be used as a corpus about the tradition of fishery in Cyprus throughout time. This will be the first time that all the evidence for fishing in Cyprus has been gathered together in a single body of evidence. Heretofore, there are three hundred and fifty-two (352) catalogue entries including fishing equipment, identified fishbone assemblages, and iconographical and written evidence dating from the Neolithic to the Early Christian period. Two hundred and twenty-nine (229) finds of fishing gear from archaeological sites dating to different chronological periods have been photographed, measured, weighted and recorded in the database. Two hundred and sixty-three (263) more artefacts must be examined at the museums’ storerooms this summer, in order to clarify if they are related to fishing techniques and activities. All these archaeological finds and fishbone assemblages come from the examination of forty-eight (48) archaeological sites, which are located along the coast, offshore and hinterland of the island. Hitherto, one hundred and thirty-seven (137) sites dating from the Neolithic period to the Late Roman/Early Christian period have been examined, but archaeological and faunal data was only recovered in these forty-eight (48).

Fig.1: Map of the archaeological sites, where finds of fishing gear and identified fishbone assemblages recovered. (source: Map produced by Maria Michael by using the ArcGIS 10)

Twenty (20) sites provide identified fishbone assemblages that include thirty-six (36) different fish species caught in different periods, while twenty-eight (28) sites provide evidence of fishing gear. According to the preliminary results of the on-going research, it seems that a plethora of fish remains comes from the earlier periods, while the amount of fish remains from later periods decreases sharply. In contrast, the finds of fishing gear dating to earlier periods are limited, while their percentages increase during the later chronological periods. This can be a result of the limited usage of sieving in the excavations of later chronological sites. Moreover, socio-economic, political and historical or environmental reasons may have led to the absence of fish remains in later periods and fishing gear in earlier ones.

Consequently, the goals for this year are to finalise the collection and recording of archaeological finds and to understand the reasons of the existence of these chronological and regional patterns. Furthermore, a main goal is to start classifying the available finds of fishing gear.

In conclusion, the participation in conferences and workshops for presenting the process of this research will be one of the goals of the second year of my research. Heretofore, I have presented a poster at the HFF conference in Cyprus (2017) and a presentation at the International Open Workshop in Germany (2019).  part of my research will be presented in two more symposiums, which are the Maritime Archaeology Graduate Symposium (March 2019) and the symposium “Cypriot archaeology, pre-modern material culture, and cultural heritage in the UK” (April 2019).


Frost, H. 1985. Appendice 2: Fishing Tackle: Three Limestone Weights. In M. Yon. Kition-Bamboula 3.Le Sondage L-N 13 (Bronze récent et géométrique I), Vol.56. Paris. p. 169 – 171.

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