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Looking across Chronological Barriers William Caraher, University of North Dakota Delivered at the 2013 Byzantine Spring Colloquium “Byzantine Survey Archaeology: Reflections and Approaches” Dumbarton Oaks March 29-30, 2013

Byzantine studies has much to learn from survey archaeology. The rural life that has formed the foundation of Byzantine society frequently stands outside of the view of traditional textual sources and has traditionally occupied the margins of field archaeology. As a result, sites and monuments outside of urban centers often stand isolated from the context of settlement and land use, and scholars struggle to place texts that shed light on rural life in the wider context of settlement across the empire. This has predictably limited the scope of important conversations on the development and structure of the Byzantine economy, and left all aspects of rural life in the shadows. I am not the first to have noticed or commented on this issue. In fact, over the past 40 years legions of scholars have worked to fill in the Byzantine countryside with farms, settlements, people, and places. My paper today will reflect on the contributions of intensive pedestrian survey to this conversation. I will be particularly interested in work that has taken place in Greece over the last 40 years or so largely because Greece is an important home to the most intensive practices of pedestrian survey in the Eastern Mediterranean. Rather than even attempt an exhaustive survey, my contribution will briefly look at four related issues central to how Byzantine archaeology looks across chronological boundaries to produce new insights into the Byzantine countryside. First, I will consider the historiography of Byzantine periodization, then comparative landscapes and site formation, and, finally, Byzantine archaeology as practice to understand how looking across periods has produced a distinctly Byzantine countryside. [SLIDE] As early as the late 1970s, Byzantinists were coming to understand the value of intensive pedestrian and regional level survey archaeology. John Rosser in his “A Research Strategy for Byzantine Archaeology” held out the Minnesota Messenia Expedition as a model project for regional scale studies of the Byzantine countryside.1 Noting the potential to answer questions elusive in texts, Rosser recognized diachronic approaches to the countryside as a key method for managing gaps in our documentary record by understanding the pre-modern landscape as
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Rosser 1979; McDonald and Rapp 1972

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a place for the long-term interaction between humans and their natural environment. Thus diachronic survey produced the limits within which a plausible Byzantine countryside could function and provided a foundation for discussions of demography, the agrarian economy, and settlement. Timothy Gregory's 1986 article titled “Intensive Survey and its Place in Byzantine Archaeology” made the case for the kind of intensive pedestrian survey practiced by the socalled "Second Wave" survey projects in Greece.2 Drawing upon work at the Boeotian site of Thisvi and the Korinthian site of Kenchreai, he argued that the detailed landscapes produced by more intensive practices held forth significant value for recognizing the ephemeral remains of Byzantine settlement, moving beyond a preoccupation with the urban and monumental, and placing these remains within a regional context. The flurry of survey projects during the 1980s and 1990s included Byzantine specialists and continued trends toward both regional perspective and intensive practices (many of whom are in the room today). Despite this interest, it remains useful to point out that none of these projects focused explicitly on the Byzantine or Medieval period; PRAP and NVAP were under the direction of prehistorians and the project in Boeotia were under the direction of a prehistorian (nominally) and a specialist in Iron Age Greece. This is not an indictment of these projects, their goals, their methods, or the scope of their work, but a simple observation that Byzantine archaeology continued to be peripheral to the main goals of even the more sophisticated “second wave” survey projects on mainland Greece.3 The longstanding emphasis among scholars and funding bodies on the Classical and Bronze Age periods in Greece accounts for this bias as much as anything. J. Vroom has noted that this tendency derived from the 19 century trend to consider post-antique ceramics as a single corpus dating to “after antiquity”. This tendency to categorize the Byzantine with later material is a direct result of over a century of archaeological practices, which following the likes of Wace and Dawkins located post-antique material in the realm of ethnography. This academic tradition exerted an important influence on intensive pedestrian survey even as it became more methodologically and theoretically sophisticated. At the same time, survey archaeologists have become increasingly aware that the absence of nuanced chronologies for Byzantine ceramics has impaired our ability to compare the Byzantine period to those before or after. To adapt an observation made by my colleague and collaborator David Pettegrew, if recognizable Late Roman coarse and fine wares have created
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Gregory 1986 A. Dunn has made this observation, but I need to find the citation.

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a landscape with the lights turned on, then our knowledge of Byzantine pottery has created a landscape with lights turned off.4 The Anatomy of Settlement [SLIDE] Despite these limitations, the diachronic structure of post-ancient archaeology as a practice positioned it to contribute to the comparative study of Medieval settlement in the Mediterranean basin. Jack Davis, in an important 1991 article, recognized that comparative study of settlement patterns was particularly helpful for understanding the artifactual landscape produced by survey archaeology. He argued that studying the distribution of Ottoman and Early Modern material in light of documentary records can inform the relationship between evidence for agricultural practices and settlement for more poorly known periods. [SLIDE] Recent work with David Pettegrew, Lita Tzortzopoulou-Gregory, and Tim Gregory, has taken a more archaeological approach to comparative survey through the study of the small, nearly abandoned settlement of Lakka Skoutara in the Corinthia. [SLIDE] The most prominent features of this small upland valley are a series of Balkan style long houses dating predominantly to the first half of the 20th century with foundations that date to a generation earlier. [SLIDE] Among the houses are cisterns, a couple wells, massive piles of stones from field clearing, and a series of large, well preserved alonia. The settlement stood in the largest of a series of Lakkas that stretch along the pre-modern road between the village of Sophiko and its Saronic harbor of Korphos, but it does not appear on early modern or modern maps. The region around the village of Sophiko, however, is known for its Byzantine churches and Medieval fortification atop Mt. Tsalikas. Our work at Lakka Skoutara allows us to compare evidence for Early Modern settlement and earlier distributions of pottery and to look across boundaries to examine rural change. There was a significant assemblage of material dating to the Medieval period which we defined quite broadly as dating from 700 AD to 1800 AD. The dearth of fine ware has made it difficult to date activities in this area to more specifically, but the presence of Byzantine activity across the region is suggestive. [SLIDE] At Lakka Skoutara, the distribution of Medieval material is different from the Early Modern material suggesting some discontinuity in settlement. The Medieval material clustered in two distinct areas. The larger concentration is on the western part of the Lakka and a smaller concentration stands to the southeastern part of the valley. Both are away from the deepest soils of the valley which feature the densest concentrations of both pre- and post4

Pettegrew

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Medieval material. It is tempting to imagine that the different distribution may represent a strategy designed to maximize access to the richest soils on the valley bottom. The wider distribution of Early Modern material might also reflect the fragmentation of land tenure in the 19th century compared to landholding in the Medieval period. If this is the case, it would contrast the more scattered landholdings documented in the Medieval period in the Nemea valley.5 The assemblage in both concentration of Medieval material in the Lakka featured semifine wares, amphora, kitchen wares, and a wide range of utility vessels in medium coarse fabrics. The material present in the surface assemblage shows sufficient diversity to be appropriate for habitation. In fact, we can profitably compare it to the material present from the Early Modern period at the site. While we suspect that the valley was probably only inhabited all year around on an intermittent basis, the Early Modern assemblage on the surface did reflect the range of material appropriate for settlement including imported fine ware, a wide range of utility wares and storage vessels. The absence of cooking and kitchen ware probably represents the growing use of metal pots for these purposes. By interrogating the artifacts from the Medieval period in the context of later material in the area of the Lakka Skoutara settlement, we can continue a practice of locating Byzantine material in a landscape established by early and later remains. This is particularly significant for rural assemblages that stand outside the gaze of textual sources and reveal the dynamic character of marginal lands. Archaeological Signatures of Byzantine Churches If the presence of Medieval material at Early Modern settlements provides a comparative historical context for the Byzantine period in the Greek landscape, it also hints at the complex processes of site formation that survey archaeologists have increasingly come to recognize as central to interpreting the distribution of material on the surface. The long and diverse histories of standing Byzantine buildings in the countryside remind us that the architectural and archaeological record is not the product of a single moment, but rather centuries of sometimes small episodes which contribute to the shape of a Byzantine monument or the distribution of material on the surface. In order to investigate the formation processes at play in the creation of a Byzantine landscape visible to intensive pedestrian survey David Pettegrew, Tim Gregory, and I conducted a very focused archaeological investigation of the area immediately surrounding several Medieval churches on the island of Kythera in the summer of 2001. This work was done with the Australian Paleochora-Kythera Archaeological Survey (APKAS). [SLIDE]
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Athanassopoulos 2004, 92-93.

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We presented our preliminary results in a 2001 paper at the Byzantine Studies Conference. The goal of our paper was to attempt to understand the archaeological “signatures” of vanished church buildings by studying the material visible around standing churches of a Medieval or, when possible, Byzantine date. In this paper, our work focused on the cultural transforms of formation processes (like rubbish clean up, discard practices, and maintenance routines) that contributed to the archaeological signature of Byzantine buildings in the contemporary landscape. Our work engaged the realities of buildings that continued in use into the modern period, and understood a Byzantine monument as part of a processes that took place over a significant period of time. Aside for some work on the Methana, Nemea, and Laconia survey and at the excavations at Panakton, relatively little research exists concerning either the archaeological assemblages associated with churches or site formation processes for the Byzantine period.6 [SLIDE] Over a single season, we documented seven churches and six of them produced some Medieval or Byzantine material. Around the church of Ay. Ioannis near Potamos which features 13th c. wall paintings, we surveyed 16 units covering an area of 6200 sq m. The units produced 240 artifacts, 11 of which could be assigned a Medieval date. The Medieval material featured late Medieval fineware, kitchen wares, and utility wares. The material was scattered in the field to the south of the church and might have represented settlement rather than be directly associated with the church. [SLIDE] The church of Ay. Onoufrios, some 1.5 km southwest of the site of Paliochora also has paintings dated to the 13th century. We surveyed 4 units covering an area of 730 sq m which produced 66 artifacts. Forty of these artifact dated to between the Middle Byzantine period and Venetian period on the island. The assemblage was robust and diverse with a selection of fine ware including 14th-15th c. Sgraffito and glazed fineware from the 16th c. as well as Medieval amphora, kitchen and cooking wares, and other utility wares. The rather more isolated position of Ay. Onoufrios, atop a steep, but terraced plateau, makes it an unlikely place for a sizable settlement and suggesting that the material collected there came from activities around the church. While the isolated location of Kythera makes identifying Medieval ceramics there a particular challenge, the presence of identifiable Medieval sherds is significant in the context of generally low artifact densities across the entire survey area and the variable visibility present in the survey units around the more isolated churches. The area around churches on Kythera tended to produce far more Medieval material than “off-site” survey units. The persistence of Byzantine architecture in the modern landscape provides important windows into the diachronic history of a place and is suggestive of practices that supported the
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Shiffer on assemblages.

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accumulation of ceramics including diagnostic fineware around churches. These churches reflect larger processes that occurred immediately around the church itself and perhaps allowed for the accumulation of fineware and other prestige vessels like at Panakton. Conclusions: Dreams of Reuse The persistence of place in the Byzantine countryside perhaps echoes a significant interest in rural space among the Byzantine’s themselves. Saints, farmers, and travelers all engaged the countryside in different ways and, in some case, recognized it as a bridge between the past and the present. [SLIDE] Hagiographic literature is filled with anecdotes that describe saints encountering the remains of earlier buildings in a rural setting. The best-known examples of rediscovered buildings are church that came back to life after periods of neglect, abandonment, or even total collapse. While we should guard against assuming some kernel of historic “reality” to every example of the well-known trope of inventio, it seems pretty clear that Byzantine communities recognized neglected or abandoned churches in the countryside and that various wandering saints or displaced monks would sometimes discover, inhabit, and rebuild these structures. In other cases, we can recognize the practice of visiting church buildings even when they were in a state of decay or collapse. St. Nikon, for example, spent a fraught night amidst the ruins of an ancient church on Crete where a dream of St. Photini compelling him to rebuild it. St. Athanasia of Aegina and her colleagues sought out an abandoned monastery on Aegina as a home to her nuns. St. Theodore of Kythera made his aesthetic home an abandoned church on that island, and commemorated his passing on a ostraka from the site. The continued significance of even ruined buildings in the Byzantine countryside perhaps explains why it remained a prestigious act to reconstruct neglected or abandoned buildings in urban areas. The so-called Vita Basilii (97.1-2) praised the Emperor Basil I (867-86) for rebuilding nearly 20 churches in the capital. Michael Choniates spent his otherwise unpleasant time in Greece rebuilding churches across Attica. The appearance of these practices in texts reminds us that the history of places in the Byzantine countryside was rarely restricted to the time of the church’s construction. It seems that the study of spolia in post-Byzantine buildings provides a useful model for reading of the diachronic countryside. The architectural practices associated with reuse not only contribute to the distribution of earlier material across the countryside but also marked the recognition of a particular past. The 14th c. church at Panakton like churches elsewhere both in Boeotia, in Methana, and in Greece, used fragments of earlier, Middle Byzantine architectural sculpture in its decoration.7 The reuse of this material in a different context from
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Gerstell et al. 2003, 189ff; Bouras 1993-1994.

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its original use reminds us that looking across the artifactual landscape reveals not product of a single event, but a palimpsest of processes.

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Medieval  Ceramics  at  Lakka  Skoutara  in  the  Korinthia  

Modern  Ceramics  at  Lakka  Skoutara  in  the  Korinthia  

Ay.  Ioannis     Ay.  Onoufrios