July 8, 2013 § 6 Comments
Ten years ago this month, I submitted my dissertation, Church, Society, and the Sacred in Early Christian Greece, for final approval at Ohio State and became Dr. Bill Caraher. A year later, I was lucky enough to become Visiting Assistant Professor Bill Caraher and a year after that Assistant Professor Bill Caraher. And finally, last year, Associate Professor. Pretty exciting business, academia is.
Last week, over dinner with my Ph.D. advisor in Greece I was once again asked why I hadn’t made progress toward publishing my dissertation. The easy answer always has been: it’s available here for free so I felt no need to work on it more so that someone else could make money from it.
A more complex answer usually involved me explaining that I was extremely fortunate to get a job at a school that supported faculty research, while not requiring a book for tenure. So instead of re-heating my dissertation for a quick monograph to ensure tenure, I started a new project – the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project – on Cyprus, and have managed to bring it almost to completion over the last decade. In fact, a monograph based on the survey we conducted at the site between 2004 and 2010 is in final revisions and will appear as a volume in the American Schools of Oriental Research Archaeological Report Series.
That being said, people still bug me about my dissertation. So now, I tell them that there are other scholars doing great work on some of the same issues that I explored in my dissertation. Ann Marie Yasin’s book on saints and churches appeared in 2009 (some thoughts on it here and here); Kim Bowes has produced some good scholarship in private churches (my thoughts on it here); and Rebecca Sweetman has attacked the complex evidence for Early Christian architecture in Greece with insight (my thoughts on it here). There seemed little need for another book on Early Christian architecture in Greece. The field was in good hands.
All that being said, I have continued to churn out little papers and articles on the topic of Early Christian architecture and churches. Few of them have appeared in print largely owing to the vagaries of academic publishing, but all of the papers below are either forthcoming or in press except the epilogue. Whenever possible I have posted working drafts or pre-prints to my Scribd page. I guess people can put these papers in order and make them almost like a little book.
Chapter 1: Monumentality and Early Christian Architecture. (I just uploaded this today!)
Maybe sometime soon, I’ll find a bit of time to write an introduction to this little pseudo-/cyber-volume that will make explicit how the various parts link together, but I feel like these chapters represent range of my thoughts on Early Christian architecture in Greece.
Here’s Chapter 1:
July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’ve been thinking a bit about fortified camps and refuges lately. This is largely prompted by my TOP SEKRET project, but also prompted a bit by my reflections on our ongoing study of the site of Pyla-Vigla on Cyprus. The question I keep having is how does one distinguish a fortified camp from a refuge.
Camps, at least for the Classical to Roman period served to accommodate soldiers for a short period of time. In fact, the Romans built fortified camps at the end of every days march. These camps differ, of course, from the more long-term camps – occupied for a number of years or even longer – known from the Roman period at strategically significant places in the Mediterranean, along borders, or in areas where longterm garrisons were stationed.
During the tumultuous Hellenistic period, numerous sites identified with short-term, strategic occupation appear across Greece, and a small number have been identified in Cyprus as well. Archaeologists have argued (pdf) that these likely served the needs of armies on the march or engaged in short-term fortification of the tactical locations or enemy territory. The argument for such episodic or short-term activities rests on two main features of these camps.
First, the material from such sites typically represents the short-term character of activities in these areas. Assemblages tend to be remarkably cohesive, largely utilitarian in character and chronologically unified.
Second, the fortification walls at these sites tend be rough, inelegant affairs. They rarely have proper ashlar polygonal or isodomic styles and often utilize natural features like rock outcrops or steep slopes to supplement the course of the wall. The remains of the wall, even if they seem imposing to us today, may have simply been the stone socles for mudbrick superstructures.
If the camps had any easily defined buildings within their circuits, they tended to be simple in design and rather small. In Greece they clearly featured tile roofs; in Cyprus, the roofs might have been reed and mud. In short, these rough-and-ready fortifications lacked the monumentality of the famous Attic border forts or the Hellenistic fortification that dot the Ionian coast of Turkey.
Refuges are a less clearly identified type of fortification in the landscape. In fact, some scholars have interpreted fortified camps as refuges. The material evidence for a refuge would likely be similar to that produced by a short-term military encampment. Moreover, a refuge, set away from the main areas of settlement and more likely to be hidden than monumental would manifest similarly in the landscape.
The best way, I suspect, to begin to make arguments for the function of remote fortified sites is to locate these places within larger settlement patterns and roads and routes through the landscape. Intensive survey has played a part creating dynamic landscape of settlement and movement in Greece and Cyprus. It seems possible that this work will present a way to understand rather modest, short-term, rural fortifications as well.
July 2, 2013 § 2 Comments
I’m conspiring on a TOP SEKRET project in Greece over the past few days. I hadn’t been to Greece since 2010. So I was perhaps a bit overstimulated by it all.
But I really like being in Greece and the prospect of working there again is beyond exciting.
And, we experienced earth, wind, and fire in my brief stay there.
The hill behind our hotel conflagrated (that’s a word right?). It was terrifying so I responded like any American and started to take pictures.
The wind is an inevitable product of one too many hills with sturdy, but slope-adverse eastern North Dakota legs.
As I grew weaker on the walk through the mountains, I realized that my generation of archaeologist made soft by obligations to publish and, long days in museums and storerooms, were not going to ascend into the mountains during the next war to collaborate with rebels and ally forces. I’d last about 3 days (hours) on the thousand year road (if you don’t know, click the link and read).
April 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
One of the benefits of a day spent traveling is that I get to catch up on my embarrassing backlog of reading. The first article on this stack (pulling them from the bottom of the pile as always) was J. Crow, S. Turner, and A. Vionis, “Characterizing the Historical Landscapes of Naxos,” JMA 24 (2011) 111-137. This relatively short article makes the case for using Historical Landscape Characterization or HLC to describe and structure historic landscapes in the Eastern Mediterranean. The authors apply this method to the island of Naxos and attempt to isolate features of the Byzantine, Medieval, and post Medieval landscapes.
The basic methods of HLC stipulate that each area on a map be given a certain place within a historical typology of landscape. The types available are standardized and range from the almost descriptive (rough ground) to the more interpretative (prehistorical enclosures). The goal of HLC is to produce a stratified map of a landscape suitable for describing historically significant landscapes at a meaningful scale. Generally, archaeologists produce these maps in response to issues of heritage management in the U.K., but the method is sufficiently robust and flexible to be exported to archaeological projects elsewhere. The types present in any particular landscape would vary, of course, according to scale and method for producing the HLC.
As Vionis and company have noted, this HLC analysis could be a particularly valuable method for framing Mediterranean historic landscapes and preparing regions for study by more intensive means. The study of Naxos, for example, depended upon historical aerial and satellite photographs, documentary sources, results of excavations and surveys on Naxos, and some, albeit limited, autopsy. This work was able to identify, for example, the relationship between “braided terraces” and Medieval churches and to suggest that certain parts of the landscape retained some key pre-modern features. Vionis was able to argue on the basis of HLC and field survey that the regions around seemingly isolated churches were likely productive agriculturally on the basis of historical proximity. While the arguments made on the basis of these large scale HLC techniques will never satisfy scholars who see excavation as the only method for producing knowledge about the past, this method of classifying a landscape represents a tool for larger scale work. At the same time, Vionis et al. recognized that their work was provisional and by producing it in GIS database they ensured that it could be updated, disseminated, and republished as more data became available.
I can immediately see the utility of using HLC methods to describe landscapes prior to intensive pedestrian survey and to produce a set of hypotheses that survey or excavation would test. It also provides a method for describing a more extensive landscape that provides context for the area documented through intensive survey. For example, I think these methods could be particularly useful for the southeastern Corinthia where we have worked to describe an early modern settlement at the site of Lakka Skoutara in the region of Sophiko. We have a significant body of landscape data from the Sophiko region both from several intensive surveys, extensive surveys, and architectural and feature studies, including a new dissertation that dates argues for a Bronze Age date of terrace walls in the region. It would also be an appealing way to approach the landscape of western North Dakota.
A Special Issue of Hesperia: Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience: American Archaeology in Greece
April 11, 2013 § 3 Comments
April may be the cruelest month, but it’s also a time when archaeologists shift our attention to summer fieldwork and imagine languid days of writing and research. The spring number of Hesperia kicks off these summer reveries and the most recent issue is a particular treat. The issue, edited by Jack Davis and Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan and deriving from a conference held in 2010 at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, looks critically at the history of American archaeology in Greece with attention to philhellenism and philanthropy. Rather than being a brazen paean to the work of American archaeologists in the first half of the 20th century, it rings a more critical note and suggests that not all acts of generosity and affection toward Greece reflected altruism.
I have not made my way through the entire volume yet, but I would urge anyone interested in this topic to start with Jack Davis’s contribution titled “The American School of Classical Studies and the Politics of Volunteerism”. Focusing on the crisis years of 1918-1919 and the involvement of American School officials in the activities of the American Red Cross in the aftermath of the First World War, the article explores the role that personal relationships between important figures in American archaeology like Edward Capps had with members of the Greek political elite. These relationships, Davis argued, fueled by philanthropic efforts on the part of Capps and other high profile individuals associated with the American School not only contributed the Greek struggle to survive the chaotic decade at the end of WWI, but also American efforts get exceptional concessions from the Greek state, the most visible of which was the right to excavate the Athenian Agora.
Y. Hamilakis in a contribution titled “Double Colonization: The Story of the Excavations in the Athenian Agora,” suggested that appreciation and mutual respect was not the only impetus behind the willingness of the Greek state to allow the Americans to not only excavate the Athenian Agora, but also to expropriate the property of hundreds of residents in a traditional Theseion neighborhood. In Hamilakis’s more critical account, the Agora excavations represent the politics of double colonization. The space of the Agora reflected both the colonial experiences of Hellenism and archaeology’s commitment to modernist practices and the long tradition nationalism in archaeological practices in Greece. As one might expect from Hamilakis, he weaves the political machinations of various Greek and American archaeologists (and the reflection of their maneuvering in the Greek press) together with development of archaeological impulses toward revealing the hidden and “real” Athens below the houses of contemporary residents. His arguments for the “allochronization” of Greece in the rhetoric of the American School officials are particularly critical. In short, he argued that School officials expected concessions from the Greek government that we the same as those afforded to the French and Germans over 50 years earlier ignoring the radically different situation in Greece at the time. At the same time that Americans were negotiating the destruction of a neighborhood in Athens, the Greek state (with the help of the international community, to be sure) was navigating the massive influx of refugees from Asia Minor and continuing aftershocks of the First World War.
What makes this volume all the more significant is the backdrop of both the current economic crisis in Greece and the changing economic realities of archaeologists working in Greece (and this, of course, extends to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens). To state simply that the American School, American archaeology in Greece, philhellenism, or 20th century American philanthropy in Greece is an expression of a modernist colonial impulse would be a gross over-simplification of a complex relationship between the two states, their political culture, and individuals. These essays offer a critical corrective to simplistic perspectives on this interaction at a particular fraught time in history of Greece and Greek archaeology.
Congratulations to the editors and the Hesperia staff for producing a timely contribution. If I’m not mistaken, this is one of the very few times that Hesperia has turned itself over to a single theme in a Special Issue. I am not sure why they decided to do this rather than to release a Hesperia Supplement, but whatever the format, this is a supercool contribution to the history of our field.
March 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
This weekend I’ll be at Dumbarton Oaks presenting a paper at their spring colloquium on Byzantine Archaeology. As I have noted earlier this week, the colloquium is on the impact of survey archaeology on Byzantine studies, and I was tasked with writing a paper on looking across chronological barriers. I focused my paper on comparative landscapes, formation processes, and Byzantine attitudes toward the past in texts. I am not sure that I say anything profoundly new, but I think that I manage to weave these three topics together in an effective way.
I am not entirely pleased with how I discuss the comparison between the Early Modern and Medieval landscapes in Lakka Skoutara. I think it probably needs a more robust basis for comparing the two artifact assemblages, but this is challenging in a paper targeted to be around 20-30 minutes paper. (Since my paper is penultimate paper after a long day I mercifully kept my remarks shorter than the recommended length imagining that some of my colleagues earlier in the day will go longer than their allotted time). I am also not convinced that I engaged the issue of formation processes fully in the second section, but my paper should provide some food for thought, and it allowed me to dust off some old data that as far as I know has not been published.
Here’s the paper and you can judge whether it works or not:
If you’re still looking for more of my riveting writing, I noticed that a book review of mine appeared on the American Journal of Archaeology webpage this week. (You can see an earlier version of this review here).
March 21, 2013 § 2 Comments
Over Easter, I’m giving a talk at the Spring Colloquium at Dumbarton Oaks. The topic will be looking across chronological boundaries in Byzantine survey archaeology. This was not exactly the topic that I would have picked, but it is a good and important one for reflecting on the current situation in Byzantine archaeology more broadly. I have written a first draft of the paper and a longer article-ish piece, but I’ll spare you the rough edges and give you a quick summary of where my argument tries to go.
1. Introduction. I begin with some quick words on the significance of survey archaeology for revealing the rural landscape and settlement, contextualizing known monuments, and informing our reading of the documentary and textual sources that exist for the Byzantine or Medieval countryside in the Aegean (e.g. the Cadaster of Thebes, various hagiographic sources, monastic typika, et c.). I also limit my comments on survey and the Byzantine countryside to Greece and – to a far lesser extent – Cyprus.
2. Historiography. I spend a little time treating two seminal discussions of survey archaeology in a Byzantine context: John Rosser’s 1979 article and Tim Gregory’s 1986 article in Byzantine Studies. I note that Rosser in his work with the Minnesota Messinia Expedition saw the need to look across chronological boundaries in order to understand the limits in which Byzantine rural society developed. Since the Byzantine countryside was largely unknown and we struggled to recognize Byzantine material in the context of survey, we had to attempt to understand this period through analogy to other post-ancient (and ancient) periods in a particular region. This approach intersected with the tendency of regional and “second wave” survey projects in the Aegean to be directed by prehistorians or scholars focused on historical antiquity rather than later periods. Following practices dating to the early 20th century, post-Classical material was grouped together in a single corpus and often studied alongside ethnographic concerns. In fact, the most recent major work on Byzantine ceramics from Greece, Joanita Vroom’s After Antiquity: Ceramics and Society from the 7th to 20th century A.C. does the same thing. This organization is largely a product of the disciplinary history of the field.
3. The Anatomy of Settlement. In the third section, I suggest that this approach, while problematic, can offer some significant insights. I highlight Jack Davis’s lengthy 1991 article “Contributions to a Mediterranean Rural Archaeology: Historical Case Studies from the Ottoman Cyclades” in the Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology. At the end of this article, Davis notes that studying the better documented Ottoman and Early Modern periods can help us understand how various agricultural strategies and settlement patterns can help us understand rural landscapes in the Byzantine period. I then consider this approach in the context of my work (with David Pettegrew and others) at the site of Lakka Skoutara in the Corinthia where we have evidence for early 20th century settlement and an early and spatially distinct Medieval settlement (and more here). The assemblage of material from the Medieval period features the full range of ceramics (table wares, kitchen wares, and storage and utility wares) with the exception of highly diagnostic imported fine wares and coincides well with habitation. This comparative approach highlighted differing settlement and land use strategies in a relatively marginal landscape.
4. Archaeological Signatures and Formation Processes. The fourth section of the paper, looks briefly at some survey work that we did on the island of Kythera in 2001 that documented the ceramic material from around a series of Medieval and Venetian period churches. I note that these buildings provide windows into both an earlier landscape, but also into earlier practices (I can’t escape from Ingold’s taskscapes this week!). The presence of fine ware around the church of Ay. Onoufrios near the Medieval town of Paliochora echoes finds associated with the nearly contemporary site of Panakton on the Attic/Boeotian border which was one of the few buildings on that site to produce a notable assemblage of fine ware. I suggest that the distinct lifecycle of churches and the practices associated with their maintenance – including the accumulation of prestige goods, local discard of broken ceramics, and work to keep the area around the church clean and free from debris – informs how we understand the signature of Byzantine churches in the landscape. This approach to Byzantine sites in the countryside requires that we recognize that even datable buildings are not static markers in the landscape, but the product of diachronic processes that create corresponding complex signatures.
5. Dreams across Time. I conclude the paper with a short fantasy that the Byzantines themselves looked across chronological boundaries when they defined their landscape. Saints, bishops, and pious laymen all worked to recover and rebuild earlier monuments that they knew about in the landscape. The reuse and rebuilding of the landscape makes clear that the Byzantines recognized their landscape as a diachronic phenomena that not only represented distinct periods, but provided a space to create history.
I’ll post a more complete draft of this paper once I get done tuck pointing it.
March 7, 2013 § Leave a comment
After getting some nice feedback on my Monday blog post, I put together a working draft of the paper that I’ll deliver at a conference at the Joukowski Institute for Archaeology at Brown next week.
No one will mistake the paper as anything other than my particular perspectives on Byzantine Archaeology. It reflects my interests in landscapes, legacy data, and the archaeological study of architecture. One can certainly see my recent work at Polis on Cyprus and on the churches of the Corinthia as well as my little projects dealing with legacy data at Isthmia and Thisvi.
That being said, I know that I didn’t give enough attention to recent work on Byzantine ceramics, various areas of “scientific archaeology,” the growing awareness of the relationship between nationalism and Byzantine archaeology, the development of indigenous archaeologies in the Byzantine period, and very recent work at particular sites where researchers are making important strides, and this is a pretty uneven perspective on the current character of the field. I also know that I have left out citations and the like making it a bit difficult to track some of my references…
But this is just a working draft and I continue to be eager to take any and all input.
March 4, 2013 § 1 Comment
At the end of next week I am heading to the Joukowsky Institute at Brown University to contribute to a symposium on “Big Questions and Next Directions in the Archaeology of Greece“. My paper will look at Byzantine Archaeology. With only 15-20 minutes, there are limits to what I can say. Moreover, I can’t say that I follow closely the newest contributions from every angle related to Byzantine archaeology. Like most scholars, I have tended to diversify my portfolio beyond the limits of Early Christian and Byzantine Greece while still investing time in areas related to core research interest both in Greece and elsewhere.
That all being said, I do intend to make a few key points:
1. I’ll begin with a brief observation that Byzantine archaeology has generally remained ambivalent toward debates in mainstream “world archaeology”. With notable exceptions, Byzantine archaeologists of Greece barely raised an eyebrow in the direction of processualism and have studiously avoided post-processualism or any other post-structure theorizing. The main focus of Byzantine archaeology continues to be the typological study of monuments, urban areas, fortifications, imported pottery and fine ware, and the interplay of texts and objects.
2. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule and that we aren’t becoming more aware of the limits of traditional approaches to Byzantine archaeology. Indeed, over the past 40 years, archaeologists interested in the Byzantine period have used dendrochronology, intensive pedestrian survey, energetics in Byzantine architecture, remote sensing, and other scientific practices to produce new knowledge about Byzantium, but, in general, these contributions have remained isolated and not been integrated into the master narrative of Byzantine Greece. There is, however, a foundation for the meaningful expansion of the archaeological data that informs our understanding of Byzantine Greece. For example, continuous revision of ceramic typologies produced through stratigraphic excavation at Corinth, Athens, and Sparta has already begun to produce new chronological, economic, and architectural insights.
3. At present, my main interest is in the archaeology of architecture in Greece and Cyprus. As a rule, the study of Early Christian and Byzantine monuments in Greece has focused on the production of neat floor plans and elevations. Architectural historians then organized these plans and elevations into typologies, compared various typological difference to one another, and presented arguments relating differences in plans and elevations to regional trends, liturgical practices, and chronology. I did some of this in my dissertation, and, in many ways, this method reflects the nature of our evidence for the Byzantine period. Considering the number of known buildings of Early Christian date in Greece, it is remarkable how few have received systematic archaeological publication; many were not excavated according to stratigraphic methods.
The future of Byzantine archaeology and architecture in Greece involves the study of Byzantine architecture through the results of careful, stratigraphic excavation. Attention to stratigraphy will not only transform the rather static and typologically bounded floor plans into more temporally dynamic spaces, but also grant agency to the individuals who both built and used these monuments. Greater attention to the distribution of finds, architectural stratigraphy, evidence for building practices and maintenance rituals, will shift attention to the “everyday” practices that fueled the Byzantine economy, informed local identities, and created the monumental landscape.
4. A more archaeological approach to Byzantine architecture need not involve new excavations. Renewed attention to archaeological “legacy data” produced by earlier excavations may offer insights into the transformation and use of Early Christian and Byzantine monuments. In fact, many Byzantine archaeologists maintained far better records from their excavations than ever saw publication. Attention to Byzantine monuments documented during excavations focused on earlier materials – e.g. excavators removed Byzantine period structures from sites like Corinth and Olympia as they uncovered earlier levels – holds forth the potential to reveal significant insights into the structure of Byzantine communities. Recent efforts at Athens and Corinth to make this data available in digital forms will expand the number of scholars who have access to the history of these sites and hopefully increase the pace of research.
At the same time, Byzantine archaeologists have a responsibility to make their work available promptly and, whenever possible, in digital form. Moving away from a proprietary notion of archaeological data toward a collaborative model will help produce the kind of (relatively) “big data” is available to address questions of regional economies, large-scale change in settlement patterns, and, of course, ceramic typologies and chronology.
5. Finally, if renewed attention to legacy data and architecture is to have an impact on our understanding of the Byzantine world, we cannot lose sight of the transdisciplinary natural of Byzantine studies. Like its cousin, Classical Archaeology, Byzantine archaeology has long availed itself to texts to inform its main research questions. To continue this tradition, however, we must ground our analysis in integrative approaches to the Byzantine world which facilitate a true dialogue between archaeological remains and textual accounts (rather than one remaining slavishly dependent on the other). The notion of a Byzantine landscape provides an important interpretative field for exploring the relationship between texts and archaeology in a Byzantine context. The idea of the landscape allows for the coexistence of monuments, settlements, survey results, and textual accounts without reducing any one object to dependency on the other. Moreover, recent work on landscape has increasingly recognized the productive tension created by various narratives. Taskscapes, for example, that represent the processes involved in the construction of a church might well be overwritten by hagiographic narratives that located holy sites in the life and travels of a saint. The distribution of local settlements might challenge narratives of abandonment that conform to political or military goals. Artifacts of resistance might provide contrasting perspectives on otherwise triumphant narratives. Landscapes need not always capture tension between text and material culture. The presence of seemingly isolated churches might challenge views of settlement based on nucleated habitation. Soundscapes, view sheds, and the faint evidence for paths and roads, connect communities and monuments in ways that defy perspectives informed by modern efficiencies and topography and contribute to producing evidence for a Byzantine experience.
The future of Byzantine archaeology is in interrogating the methods and results of the rich tradition of archaeological practice in Greece and leveraging the growing body of conceptual literature grounded in world archaeology.
January 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
I was looking for a photograph to include with a little blurb on a talk that I am going to give at my alma mater, the University of Richmond.
I came across this photo that I took in the Ligurian Alps with my buddy Mike Fronda. I though it would work for that paper.
The other option is this photo of the Early Christian basilica perched above the site of Nemea.