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Settlement on Cyprus during the 7th and 8th Centuries

Settlement on Cyprus during the 7th and 8th Centuries

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Published by billcaraher
This is a working draft of a paper on settlement pattern in Cyprus at the very end of antiquity. This paper will likely undergo some revisions before it is published but is largely complete in terms of direction.
This is a working draft of a paper on settlement pattern in Cyprus at the very end of antiquity. This paper will likely undergo some revisions before it is published but is largely complete in terms of direction.

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Published by: billcaraher on Mar 31, 2014
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06/18/2014

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 WORKING DRAFT. MARCH 29, 2014. DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION
1 Settlement on Cyprus in the 7th Century  William R. Caraher R. Scott Moore
Introduction
  The 7th and 8th centuries on Cyprus remain a vexing period for historians and archaeologists alike. The obscure nature of the historical narrative for this period has provided an opportunity for archaeology to fill the gap in our understanding of the history of the island. To do that, archaeologists have reconsidered the traditional view of these centuries on Cyprus as a period of economic, demographic, and cultural decline reflective of the large-scale disruptions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
1
 The needs of the capital in Constantinople and the military in both the Balkans and the Levant enlivened the economic networks that engaged the island and the region during the 6th and 7th centuries. These same networks, however, reeled under the collapse of Roman political hegemony. Wars, plagues, and various official efforts to resettle disruptive or displaced populations reshaped the population of the Roman Mediterranean and invariably had an impact on the organization of settlement. In the traditional narrative of Mediterranean history in the 7th and 8th centuries, these economic and demographic changes had a profound impact on the urban fabric, on architectural innovation, and on the extent and intensity of rural settlement.
2
 On Cyprus, Arab raids during the middle decades of the 7th century presented a local anchor to the larger narrative of Mediterranean disruption and decline at the end of Roman antiquity. Further complicating the events of this periods is the complex political situation in the island which may have seen some kind of joint Byzantine and Arab control or at least taxation of the island, as well as the presence of an  Arab garrison.  A circular reading of archaeological evidence from the island has tended to reinforce a traditional picture of the 7th and 8th century as a period of disruption and change. Archaeologists frequently attribute destruction layers at Late Roman sites on the island to the depredations of the Arabs.
3
 Scholars have used the Arab raids to explain the abandonment of the major urban site of Kourion on the central coast.
4
 Scholars have long attributed to Arab raids the destruction of churches across the island, from the rural basilica complex at Alassa,
5
 to the multiple churches of the community at  Ay. Georgios-
Peyia 
,
6
 the coastal church of Maroni-
Petrera 
,
7
 or at the site studied by the authors of this  volume at Pyla-
Koutsopetria 
 on Larnaka Bay.
8
 The transformation of wood-roofed basilicas to barrel- vaulted churches has become emblematic of the Arab raids.
9
 In most cases, the date for the destruction of these building rests on the coincidence of ceramics, coins, and the historical narrative.  Archaeological artifacts that should provide a
terminus post quem 
 consistently reinforce attributions to specific historical events rather than more chronologically indistinct historical processes. The
1
 Metcalf 2009, 573-575 for a summary of the traditional perspective.
2
 See Haldon and Brubaker 2011, 531-572 for the most recent survey of these centuries.
3
 Papageorghiou 1985 for the effect of Arab raids on the basilica churches on the island.
4
 Megaw 1993, but since revised in Megaw 2007.
5
 Florentzos 1996, 2.
6
 Bakirtsis 1995; Papacostas 2001
7
 Manning
8
 Christou
9
 Megaw 1946; See Stewart 2010 for a critical evaluation of this traditional view and a summary of subsequent scholarship.
 
 WORKING DRAFT. MARCH 29, 2014. DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION
2 tendency to associate the end of these sites with the Arab raids produced a largely monocausal argument for a seemingly abrupt transformation of the settlement on Cyprus. Over the past two decades, however, scholars have become increasingly skeptical of the monocausal explanation for the 7th century settlement change. For example, Marcus Rautman’s study of the village site of Kopetra in the Kalavassos Valley argued that the site depended upon the integrated economy and administrative influences of Roman hegemony in the Eastern Mediterranean which facilitated the export of agricultural products from the island and support of mining operations in the copper rich Troodos mountains.
10
 The abandonment of the settlement in the late-7th century represented the disruption of economic and political networks brought about by the Arab conquest of the Levant, incursions on the island, and activities in Cilicia in Asia Minor. The decline of Kopetra, in this context, was a local adaptation to the changing place of Cyprus in the political and economic life of the region.  The following contribution to this discussion share more with Rautman’s perspectives than the traditional views. At the same time, it does not attempt an exhaustive account of settlement in 7th and 8th Cyprus, but rather some broad generalizations supported by specific examples. Recent work by L. Zavagno, D. Metcalf, T. Papacostas, M. Rautman, and others provide a comprehensive and sophisticated reading of the problems and prospects associated with analyzing this period in the archaeological record and these efforts provide a solid guide for this work.
11
 We have avoided sustained discussion of the complex literary sources for these centuries and have focused on the complexities of the archaeological record with the understanding that the material culture of the island can tell a complementary, but independent story of these opaque centuries.
 The Regional Context for Settlement on Cyprus
  As the contributions to this volume demonstrate, larger patterns exist in settlement of the 6th-8th century Mediterranean. Increased attention to later levels at urban sites, the expansion of intensive pedestrian survey, and growing interest in rural sites ranging from fortifications to villages has created a landscape that is far more complex than earlier narratives of decline have suggested.  This recent work has provided not just a historical and archaeological context for the period on Cyprus, but also a growing terminology for reconceptualizing the transformation of settlement.
12
 As scholars like A. Dunn and M. Veikou have noted,
13
 the changing character of settlement has confounded expectations grounded in the study of ancient landscapes. For example, there is reason to suspect that the 7th saw the blurring of the distinction between urban and rural sites, the emergence of new kinds of rural sites, such as monasteries, without clear antecedents in earlier periods, and the end of settlement types, like market towns, associated with the last great flourishing of Roman economic activity in the Eastern Mediterranean. This new landscape did not coincide neatly with earlier landscapes either in terms of organization or definition. Haldon and Brubaker’s magisterial overview of society in the iconoclast era provides a point of departure for any consideration of 7th and 8th century settlement in the Eastern Mediterranean.
14
 
10
 Rautman 2003, 235-262.
11
 Zavagno 2011, 2011-2012, 2013; Metcalf 2009; Papacostas 1999, 2001; Rautman 2003.
12
 Haldon and Brubaker 2011.
13
 Viekou 2009, 2010; Dunn 1994, 1997, 2005; Haldon and Brubaker 2011, 533.
14
 Haldon and Brubaker 2011
 
 WORKING DRAFT. MARCH 29, 2014. DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION
3  While emphasizing regional variation, they nevertheless identify significant changes to the economic and political foundations of settlement across the region. Urbanism of the Late Roman period  witnessed the last great investment in urban space in antiquity with the construction of churches, the construction of baths, fountains, and walls, and the transformation of roads, amenities, and public spaces that adapted urban space to the values and needs of the Late Roman community. Against the backdrop of flourishing Late Roman urbanism, the 7th century saw a seemingly rapid decline in the size, complexity, and economic prominence of urban areas throughout the Balkans and Anatolia, revealing the impact of demographic decline, military instability, and economic disintegration across the region. Communities across the Asia Minor and the Aegean witnessed the ravages of the recurrent Justinianic plague as well as military insecurity brought about by the Persian War and the growing threat of Slavic and Arab raids of the 7th and 8th centuries. As a result, cities contracted in area and constructed fortified encientes enclosing only a small area of the earlier city. The economic and administrative prominence of urban areas likely persisted, but at a reduced scale as military instability undermined longstanding economic relationships between urban areas and local and distant markets. The overall impact of these trends on the structure of settlement varied across across the Early Byzantine world with some areas like Anatolia seeing the rise of highly nucleated, fortified cities, the displacement of urban populations to more dispersed settlements, or the disappearance of urban areas almost entirely. These trends impacted Cyprus. The military disruptions and contraction of urban space and populations in Cilicia and Pisidia over the course of the 7th century almost certainly led to the decline in nearby markets for Cypriot commodities and trade in the region more generally.
15
 Likewise, the more complex disruptions in the northern Levant particular Antioch and environs had an impact on regional markets. Even when these disruptions did not effect urban areas on Cyprus directly as the cities on the island appear to enjoyed stability until middle decades of the 7th century, they did destabilize the longstanding economic, political, social, and even military relationships between communities in the Eastern Mediterranean.  The transformation of the urban world in the 7th and 8th accompanied changes in the structure of rural settlement. While rural life in the 5th and 6th centuries boomed alongside urban prosperity across most the Eastern Mediterranean, scholars have long recognized a steep decline in rural communities starting in the late 6th century in the Balkans and continuing into the 7th century in  Asia Minor and the Levant.
16
 Fortifications either as a garrisons for troops or as places of refuge for local populations rendered vulnerable by the military instability of the borders appeared alongside or in the place of rural farms and villages.
17
 At the same time, detecting the rise of villages as both centers of settlement and as the basic unit for the emerging Byzantine economy has played a key role in efforts by scholars to find the leading edge in the reorganization of productive landscape in the the post-antique era. Unfortunately, relatively few rural sites have seen systematic excavation in the Eastern Mediterranean and intensive pedestrian survey has struggled to distinguish monasteries,  villages, and rural churches, in the archaeological record.
18
 While the regional perspectives offered by intensive survey hold forth the potential to produce a Byzantine landscape, at present the limitations of our methods have obscured our ability to consistently identify the surface signatures of short term activities. Some of this has to do with ongoing difficulties recognizing and dating 7th and 8th ceramics on the surface. It also involves our difficulty in recognizing the signatures of short term occupation on the surface in any period. The ambiguity associated the basic structures of rural life
15
 Decker and Kingsley 2001
16
 Bowden and Lavan 2003.
17
 Dunn
18
 Sanders 2004 for a summary of many of these issues. See also Pettegrew 2007

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