Friday Varia and Quick Hits

This is one of most entertaining sports weekends of the year: Formula 1, NASCAR at Martinsville, Final Four basketballing games, World T20 Final, and opening day in baseballing. Unfortunately, many of us will have to work over the weekend, but I hope that I have time to catch some of the festivities. 

While very strict rules regarding how we talk about the UND Writers Conference, so I won’t even try here, but you can go and check out the link.

Before the list of quick hits and varia, congratulations to all the folks (like my wife!) who worked hard to bring a pharmacy back to downtown Grand Forks.  

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Robinson, UND, and the History of North Dakota

I agreed to write a short piece for North Dakota Quarterly about the institutional context for Elwyn Robinson’s History of North Dakota. This is part of a series of short essays and reviews of the work to celebrate the book’s 50th anniversary. 

I’m not entirely satisfied with what I have now, but it’s a start. Read below:

Orin G. Libby picked Elwyn and Eva Robinson up at the bus station in Grand Forks on September 5, 1935. Libby was 77 and the longtime chair of the schismatic, American History department at the University of North Dakota. He was cantankerous, inflexible, and more respected than liked. He was the first professional historian to teach at the University of North Dakota, had worked to develop the state archives and the State Historical Society, and had produced as fine a crop of graduate students as the history department had ever seen. He had also clashed so fiercely with UND’s President Thomas Kane, that he found himself isolated a Department of American History which saw a revolving door of faculty members who rarely stayed more than a few years.

Elwyn and Eva had married just a few days earlier and had traveled 1,085 miles from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Elywn graduated from Oberlin College before heading to Western Research University in Cleveland for his graduate work in history. In 1935, when Libby began to search for a replacement after John Pritchett decamped to Vassar College, Elwyn had not finished his dissertation, but Libby had hired him anyway based on a recommendation from Robinson’s advisor Arthur C. Cole. Cole edited the Mississippi Valley Historical Review and knew Libby through his work with that association. As with many of Libby’s hires, there was no formal interview outside of some correspondence and the first time the two men met was at the Grand Forks bus station. Such was the practice at the University of North Dakota and across the country.

Robinson’s first years at UND were profoundly shaped by his relationship with Libby. While Libby introduced the history seminar to the university in the early years of the 20th century, by the 1930s, Robinson considered his teaching style antiquated and ineffective. This pushed Robinson to innovate by introducing new textbooks, he placed on reserve at the library readings in primary and secondary sources, and adopted a new, less formal teaching style. He spent particular effort to learning students’ names and addressing them when he saw them on campus, breaking away from more traditional modes of engagement common on campus. Robinson set himself up as the opposite of Libby’s stern demeanor quipping: “I may be mistaken, but I don’t believe he had any gift for encouraging or stimulating his students except as fear was a stimulus.”

In 1945 Libby retired and this opened the door for Robinson to begin to consider seriously writing a history of North Dakota. Apparently, Libby’s wife had intimated that he was working on such a book when Robinson had first come to Grand Forks in 1935. Robinson had not heard Libby talk about this work at all during their time together and after Libby’s retirement, he concluded that the field was open for him to work on a new book length history of the state. The writing The History of North Dakota would occupy the next 20 years of Robinson’s academic life.

The Department of History and the University of North Dakota provided a dynamic context for the writing of The History of North Dakota. The University of North Dakota grew quickly in the 1950s and 1960s, saw the departure of many of the stalwart faculty of the pre-war period, and faculty ranks professionalized steadily under the leadership of George Stacher. In many ways, Robinson’s publication of The History of North Dakota anticipated the new professional expectations for faculty at UND that were to mature in the 1970s and 1980s. At the same time, Robinson and many of his colleagues chaffed under the supervision of Felix Vondracek who served as department head from 1945-1962. Libby hired both Vondracek and Robinson in the interwar period (Vondracek in 1929 and Robinson in 1935), but they represented a study in contrasts. Vondracek exuded a stentorian confidence and photographic memory, although he struggled to complete his dissertation at Columbia. Robinson was quiet, retiring, and diligent. Vondracek was imperious in his leadership of the department, substituted bluster for hard work, and leveraged his seniority to advance his salary. Robinson led by example and sought advancement through his teaching and scholarship.

Vondracek’s style of leadership led to significant anxiety in the department and Robinson blamed him for pushing several scholars to leave the university. The rapid growth of higher education during the post-war decades, of course, provided opportunities for mobility among the faculty ranks and accomplished or ambitious scholars like Louis Geiger, John Parker, and George Lemmer left UND after clashing with Vondracek. The failure of UND to manage these departures demonstrates the persistent power of pre-war faculty and hints at skepticism among the administration and long term faculty to professionalization. Robinson felt the departures of colleagues and friends intensely and rued the reluctance of the deans and administrators to tame Vondracek’s authority.

The instability of the department compounded Robinson’s deep concern with both his salary and expenses. His memoirs are rife with minute financial details that reveals both personal anxiety an instinct for stretching ever last dollar to its fullest. In 1935, Robinson was hired for the princely sum of $1400 per year. At his promotion to associate professor in 1948, he earned $4229 and $5000 per year at his promotion to full in 1950. In terms of buying power his salary nearly doubled over his first 15 years at the university, but his family grew as well as did his expenses. He regularly complained, however, that others, particular Vondracek earned more than he did or appropriated lucrative summer teaching contracts unfairly. Even as his salary approached five figures in the mid-1960s, Robinson continued to live paycheck to paycheck. His publication of The History of North Dakota, led to him being named a University Professor in 1967 and a $20,000 raise. This seems to have relieved some financial pressure.

Against this personal and institutional backdrop, Robinson’s History of North Dakota stands as a transitional work that emerged across the changing character of the University of North Dakota. From Libby’s

The Temples of Noricum and Panonia

The destruction of temples in Late Antiquity has long conjured images of fanatical Christians destroying pagan temples and violently ending traditional, urban and monumental religious practices. Even in antiquity, this view of Christianity carried some prestige with texts like the Life of Porphyry of Gaza depicting the violent destruction of the great temple of Zeus in that city. The vivid descriptions in texts like this seemed ripe for generalization, and the destruction of temples became a fixture in how many scholars understood archaeological evidence from around the Roman world.   

Scholarship over the last 40 years has challenged this long-held view and hinted that pagan practices were not static but constantly changing and that practices associated with monumental temples was in abeyance or decline. In other words, we might see Christian “attacks” on pagan temples as salvage operations for building materials rather than efforts to destroy thriving pagan worship sites. The challenge associated with unpacking the final days of these temples is that the early excavation dates, complex urban histories, and underdeveloped ceramic typologies compromised our ability to make sense of the archaeological evidence from these buildings. 

David Walsh’s recent article in the American Journal of Archaeology offers a serious attempt to marshal the evidence from temples in Noricum and Panonia on the Roman Empire’s northern frontiers. He argues that by the late-3rd-century and into the 4th-century, the building and maintenance of urban temples declined. Since most temples were the product of public benefaction, their construction and upkeep depended upon their continued centrality to social and religious life of the communities. By the time of the Tetrarchy, he suggested that energies shifted to building walls and fortifications to protect communities from the destabilization of Rome’s northern frontier, and this contributed to a changing culture in these provinces away from monumental public religious practices and toward smaller, private temples. Walsh noted that the increased use of spolia in both public buildings and fortifications in the 4th century reflects the abandonment monumental temples. 

In Noricum and Panonia, then, the rise of monumental Christianity was likely a separate from and unrelated phenomenon to the decline in urban paganism. The rise of both Christian communities and their construction of monumental buildings in urban space. This offers a distinct context for the rise of Christianity in the 5th and 6th century. Rather than representing the replacement of monumental urban paganism with a monumental, urban Christianity, churches competed with public buildings in transformed urban landscapes of the Mediterranean. It also means that it drew resources away from public buildings (baths, basilicas, et c.) which often served non religious or civic functions for their communities. This shift not only makes manifest the growing authority of the church in religious, social, and formally civic terms, but also offers an opportunity to consider the ways in which the emergence of monumental Christianity encouraged a change in social practices in the community. For example, with resources being drawn to larger, Christian buildings in the urban core, the construction and maintenance of large bathing establishments suffered, and this might explain the tendency for bath houses to be smaller in the 6th and 7th century and the eventual decline of baths as important social places in Late Antique and Early Byzantine urban space.

Branding and the Humanities: First Thoughts

This blog post is not my completed thoughts on this subject and owes a tremendous amount to a draft of an article written by Eric Kansa last fall and posted to github. I read the article, offered comments, and clearly understood nothing. NOTHING. Maybe I do now.

This past month, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to discuss public humanities projects. During these conversations the word “branding” and “brand” came up a number of times. At one point I was told, “you have your brand and I have mine” in reference to two mature and long-standing public humanities projects. In another, I had a lively and earnest discussion about how two relatively vibrant brands could work together. In both of these cases, people were well meaning, if a bit territorial, and generally used the term to describe longstanding and more-or-less focused projects that have distinct visual identities, institutional affiliations, and public expectations. For example, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is a brand.

I’m sure that people us the notion of “brand” in higher education and the public humanities because it offers a tidy package for the various elements of a project’s identity. I nicely designed logo and visual identity, a well articulated “boiler plate” description, and a clear set of goals work together to establish public expectations for a project. Moreover, a well-constructed brand has the opportunity to set a project apart in a crowded field of similar projects, to make it better positioned to receive funding, and even to establish a project’s professional credentials. For example, I’ve really enjoyed reading through the 1974 NASA Graphic Standards Manual, and it’s made me think a good bit about how I brand The Digital Press to ensure a consistent graphic identity. At its best, branding becomes a shorthand for establishing expectations, and it is part of what makes a public humanities project “legible” to a public saturated by brand messages.

At the same time, branding the public humanities posses problems. It is grounded in a model of knowledge production that assigns ownership or even possession to an idea or the expression of an idea. After all, a brand is literally a mark designed to show ownership. Most of us in the public humanities business are committed to setting ideas free rather than marking them as the possession of a particular institution or project. Moreover, most folks committed to public humanities are invested in various collaborative approaches to bringing the rich experiences offered by the humanities to a wider audience. These collaborations often require all parties to commit their productive energies to a project that is not entirely in their control. In other words, in a world dominated by brands, ownership, and possession, the public humanities often asks scholars to sacrifice their own priorities, goals, and work in the name of a larger project. Often a successful public humanities brand is developed on the back of a bunch of selfless volunteers.

On a larger scale, branded work and the metaphor of ownership and the market makes it harder for public humanities projects to collaborate as brands can fall into conflict. It makes it harder for public humanities projects to diversify, because brands can be diluted. It makes it harder for public humanities projects to articulate larger goals because the language of the market insists that the survival and expansion of the brand is the most important objective.

The language of branding does, of course, fit into a neoliberal view of education and the humanities where all ideas and their disciplinary manifestations are set to compete with each other to (at best) produce truth or (at worst) to capture resources and advance a particular view of the world. The rise of brands within this context serves, on the one hand, as a way to package collaborative efforts that might defy certain institutional boundaries, but, on the other hand, robs academia (and the public sphere) of the kind of inherent in the free transit of ideas, conversations, and problems.

I don’t have a solution to the problem of academic branding or branding in the humanities, but I do think that it’s a problem that requires more careful articulation moving forward. Just being conscious of how we use the term and how we think about collaboration and interaction between projects would be a start.

My Bakken Research in 14 Mediocre Images

If you’ve been following my blog over the last couple of weeks, you’ve perhaps noticed that Kyle Cassidy has been working overtime to get us media coverage for the Bakken Goes Boom: Oil and the Changing Geographies of Western North Dakota.

His photo essay on the Bakken has appeared in Slate, Fast Co. Design, and the Daily Mail. It’s really good.

Since I just finished putting together a group of photographs and illustration with rather detailed captions, I thought I’d try my hand at a little photo essay. I’m not Kyle Cassidy, but here goes:

Figure 1FINALFigure 1: The thick line delineates the Bakken formation, and the vast majority of oil related activities take place in Mountrail, Williams, McKenzie, and Dunn counties in Western North Dakota. 

Figure 2Figure 2: Map showing workforce housing in the Bakken. Dots represent camps recorded in an inventory of “temporary workforce housing establishments” in the western part of North Dakota. The stars are our study sites in the region.

Figure 3Figure 3: A kite photograph of a Type 1 Camp outside Tioga, ND. Note the regular arrangement of units, the elevated walkways between units, and the small common building with a flat roof in the center right of the image.

Figure 4Figure 4: The alley between two rows of units in a Type 2 Camp outside of Williston, ND. The alley provides space for the electrical masts, water and sewage hookups, and for storage. It also provides access to buried pipes that sometimes require maintenance.

Figure 5Figure 5: The haphazard arrangement of RVs in a Type 3 Camps near Tioga, ND. Without the constraints of electrical masts or water and sewage hook ups, in this instance, a Type 3 camp used this flexibility to create common spaces. 

Figure 6Figure 6: Man camps tend to cluster around the edges of existing settlements to leverage concentrations of existing infrastructure, and to avoid jurisdictional complications associated with being within city limits. 

Figure 7Figure 7: The use of extruded polystyrene foam around the base of an RV provides insulation. Note the use of wood braces for the foam, the insulated sewage pipe, and the wood box over the water and hookup.

Figure 8Figure 8: Well-constructed wood framing to support extruded polystyrene insulation around the base of the RV. Note the panel removed for access to the underside of the RV.

Figure 9Figure 9: A rather typical mudroom set atop an elevated platform with a small deck. Note the tar-paper roof, the modest efforts at decoration, and the plants set into Wal-mart pails.

Figure 10aFigure 10a: External platforms are among the most common architectural interventions in the Bakken. They provide a defined space elevated from mud, dirt, and snow. Note the use of a standard shipping pallet as a step.

Figure 10bFigure 10b: This is a common assemblage associated with the demarcated and elevated space of a platform is unsecured, and includes (a) grill (b) cooler (c) camp chairs (d) propane cylinder (e) camp table (f) shipping pallet (g) deck.

Figure 11Figure 11: This is an elaborate example of demarcated property. The placement of the RV on the border of the lot forms one border for private space that is here defined by a flimsy fence, some impermanent landscaping, an elevated platform, and the personal touches including a “Brad and Brenda” sign.

Figure 12Figure 12: Free weights along with elaborate grills contribute to the hyper-masculine identity present in the Bakken. Weights are often left unsecured and then abandoned when residents move on. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Figure 13Figure 13: The two grills visible outside the mudroom of a pair of RVs in the Bakken complement a typical, if elaborate assemblage of objects associated with short-term occupation: tomato plants in planters, platforms made of shipping pallets, children’s bikes and toys, cinderblocks, and a rubber trash can.

DSC 2050 copyBonus Photo! (From Left): Richard Rothaus, Bill Caraher, and Bret Weber at the site of an abandoned man camp. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Enlinkening an AJA Review Essay

Just for fun, I took my very recent review essay in the American Journal of Archaeology and added a bunch of links. Some are just to Worldcat, but some of these, marked by little plus signs (+) offer linked to addition content including blog posts, podcasts, and reviews. Where possible I’ve linked to copies of the essays or related content. Why isn’t this just normal of an open access, pdf based article? Wouldn’t that make scholarship more useful and vaguely more fun? I linked to a podcast. It’s like a party.

Behold the enlinkened content!

Anyway, it took me an hour and was sort of fun:

1202 Caraher 3 pdf page 1 of 7 and All My Files

The Uncanny Bakken

Another of my little spring break projects was a book review for a literary journal on Lisa Peters’ Fractured Land and Richard Edwards’ Natives of a Dry Place. I’ve blogged on the former here and the latter here. I think this is my best effort to understand how recent work on the Bakken contributes to a larger conversation about oil and social change.


Even as the oil boom in western North Dakota has entered a protracted lull, the publishing of oil related books has continued to boom. Lisa Peters’ Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil and Richard Edwards’ Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota Before the Boom represent two fine, recent contributions to the literature on North Dakota before and during the Bakken boom. Both books come from authors who have spent most of their lives outside North Dakota, but have reconnected with their roots in the Northern Plains during the expansion of oil related activity in the region.

Peters’ father grew up near Williston, and her grandfather, whose homestead failed north of Williston, found ways later in life to invest shrewdly (and presciently) in property and mineral rights on the Nesson anticline. Her father, who became an engineer at 3M, earned some modest income over his life from these rights and used them to build a cabin on the scenic St. Croix River in Wisconsin. Ironically, the author’s time on this river as a child and adult inspired her own environmentalism, and it is this environmentalism that motivated her personal journey through the Bakken, through the complexities of oil production, and the process of fracking. The book starts with her trip to visit her dying father who retired to Florida and concludes with her spreading of his ashes near an oil well on her family’s land. In between, she visits a fracking sand mine in a sensitive ecology in Wisconsin, has a frank conversation with a fracking engineer, visits a working drill rig, and shares coffee with a local farmer who has no sympathy for the oil industry. Her journey is personal, and she does little to hide her deeply conflict attitudes between the practical reality of our chemical-infused world, and the environmental risks of oil, the ethical questions associated with fracking, and the difficult history of the semi-arid northern plains.

Richard Edwards left Stanley, North Dakota when he was 12. Today, Stanley sits on the eastern side of the Bakken oil patch and is home to pipeline terminals, units yards, and oil field workers. The Stanley of Edwards’ youth, was more sleepy and less prosperous, but populated with a cast of characters who would be comfortable in a Mark Twain novel. Edwards’ book begins with a description of the conflicts between those who benefited and those who have suffered during the boom in contemporary Stanley. He then explores the Stanley of his youth borrowing freely from his family’s memories, photographs, and documents to tell eight stories arranged around a series of themes: resoluteness, steadfastness, devotion to community, pluck, commitment, dauntless optimism, spirit of adventure, and modesty. At first, these stories read like home-spun wisdom, but this belies their complexity. Edwards stories show that societies “usually get what they celebrate.” His tale of commitment, for example, tells how his aunt’s husband left his wife of 20-years to reunite with his teenage love. He demonstrates resoluteness in a story about the recovery of Tom Scrivner’s body from a dry well that becomes a murder mystery. However resolute town folks were in finding Scrivener’s body did not extend to finding his murderer. The subtle contradictions in these stories reveal the tensions within even the most conspicuous small-town values. By the end of the book, boom-time Stanley is somehow less different from Stanley before the boom, and more a natural extension of a society’s values.

The landscape and experience of the Bakken Oil Boom is distinctly uncanny. It is at once familiar. After all, the characters if Peters and Edwards book are people who we know in any town or city. They are environmentalists, concerned fathers, dutiful siblings, and eccentric neighbors. In many ways, the tensions between Peters’ environmentalism and her family’s oil patch profits are the same that many of us feel when indulge in the convenience of bottled water, leave our car idling on a cold winter day, or read a paper book because “we like how a book feels.” Both books speak to a very modern experience of being in the world.

At the same time, all booms are, by definition, sudden, unexpected, and extraordinary. As Edwards notes, societies get what they celebrate, but few can celebrate or anticipate such a sudden boom. In fact, many of the tensions present in the Bakken, from housing shortages to infrastructure strain, demonstrate the limits to our ability to anticipate these kinds of events. Fracking takes place far beneath the earth, using secret (or at least complicated) processes and chemicals, and the novel and unknowable risks of fracking contribute to the public’s concern.

The authors’ perspective as both insiders and outsiders contributes to their uncanny view of North Dakota and the Bakken Oil Boom. North Dakota is a strange and wonderful place, and both Peters and Edwards make clear that we can learn from it.

The Archaeology of Early Christian Churches on Cyprus

As the western churches start Holy Week, it seems appropriate to post something Christian and liturgical. So here’s a rough drafty-draft of a section on churches that I wrote for a contribution to the Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Archaeology. For more on that project, go here.

Monumental architecture, and basilica-style churches in particular, remain the most visible form of Early Christian material culture. Richard Maguire’s recent dissertation on the Early Christian churches of Cyprus counts over 70 buildings dating to this period. His 2012 work stands as the best, recent synthesis and catalogue of these monuments, and expands substantially on the work of Peter Megaw and Andreas Papageorghiou who published a series of synthetic articles in Greece during the 1960s. Papageorghiou sought to prove that Early Christian archaeology on Cyprus derived from Constantinopolitan precedents and tied the island closely to the culture of the imperial capital. Megaw’s important 1974 article which addressed the question “Metropolitan or Provincial?” for Cypriot architecture comes down largely in the latter camp for most Early Christian monuments on the island assigning many characteristic features of basilica-style churches to Levantine or Palestinian influences. Maguire’s dissertation is less committed to tracing lines of influence, and instead recognized the polyvalence of influences on ecclesiastical architecture on the island. The position of Cyprus astride a wide range of Eastern Mediterranean networks makes Maguire’s conclusions not only the most plausible but also consistent with what we read in textual sources for the island.

Like most of the eastern Mediterranean, the earliest confirmed Christian buildings date to the end of the 4th century AD. The archaeological evidence for these churches remains unsatisfactory, but perhaps not entirely unconvincing. The earliest phase of the basilica associated with St. Spyridon at Tremetousia in Larnaka District has a mosaic that the excavator, A. Papageorghiou, dated stylistically to the 4th century. He combined that date with the reference to a pilgrimage church in the Vita of St. Spyridon and the bishop’s attendance at the Council of Nicaea in 325 to argue that the modest three-aisled basilica with stone columns. The 6th or 7th basilica of St. Auxibios at Soloi in Kyrenia Distract also has an early phase which various scholars have argued to be mid-4th century, again on the basis of mosaic style. An early, five-aisled basilica at the site, however, had several unusual features including a series of semicircular basins set into a flat eastern wall that caused Megaw to suggest that this building may be a nymphaeum rather than an early church, whereas Charles Stewart and the excavators have suggested that this early, hall-like structure should rank as the earliest Christian building on the island with the basins serving an unknown liturgical function. Several other buildings on the island have possible 4th century dates. Papageorghiou and Megaw have dated the massive, seven-aisled Chrysopolitissa basilica at Paphos to the 4th century based on mosaic styles, but the church remains unpublished. The basilica of St. Epiphanios at Salamis, where he was presumably buried after his death in 403. The account of the church’s construction in the Life of Epiphanios where the bishop commissioned the church before his death.

The reliance on stylistic dates for the earliest churches on Cyprus reflects a significant limits to our archaeological knowledge of the region. The great basilica of the Campanopetra at Salamis featured a colonnaded, double western atria and an atrium projecting to the east, a ambulatory surrounding a three-aisled nave, and numerous ancillary rooms. The church was almost certainly designed to accommodate pilgrims and, along with the fourth-century basilica of St. Epiphanios and the late-fifth century basilica dedicated to St. Barnabas, formed a pilgrimage center at Salamis for travelers on their way to the Holy Land. Unfortunately, we do not have published stratigraphy for any of these churches leaving Campanopetra to be dated on the basis of architectural sculpture and St. Barnabas dated on the basis of wall style. It seems likely that the churches at Salamis were built within a century of the impressive Episcopal compound at Kourion published in 2007 by Megaw. This church stood at the south end of the Roman agora on the site of fourth-century civic basilica. The earliest phase of the church dates to the 5th century but the building continued to enjoy expansion and elaboration into 6th century. Amathus, similarly featured at least two 5th-century basilicas – one, large 5-aisled church identified by the excavators as the seat of the bishop and the other, smaller 3-aisle basilica at the foot of the acropolis – although the rationale for these dates remain unclear. Despite the relative ambiguity in dating these buildings, it would appear that the 5th century saw the construction of monumental churches in urban centers of the island, and this was contemporary with the expanding resources of the ecclesiastical hierarchy across the Mediterranean and the autonomy of the Cypriot church.

The 6th century saw an expansion of monumental Christian architecture into the countryside. Marcus Rautman’s excavations at the village site of Kopetra are among the most significant in the Early Christian archaeology of the island. He revealed three basilica style churches at a village site in the Kalavassos Valley. Two date to the 6th century on the basis of rigorous stratigraphic excavation. A three-aisled church at the site of Sirmata may be associated with a monastery. Another three-aisled church is likely the main church in the village. The well-known church of the Panayia Karnakaria at the ex-urban site of Lythrankomi on the Karpas Peninsula preserved a significant, if highly fragmentary apse mosaic decorations dated by Megaw and Haskins to the end of the first third of the 6th century. The site of St. George-Peyia, an ex-urban, coastal settlement northwest of Paphos has produced three, unpublished basilicas which may all have 6th-century dates. The church at the small, rural settlement of St. Kononas on the Akamas peninsula is likely contemporary. The acropolis of Amathus saw an elaborate three-aisled basilica with numerous annexes in the 6th century, which remains largely unpublished and Paphos In an urban neighborhood of ancient Arsinoe (Polis-Chrysochous), the three-aisled south basilica dates to 6th-century on the basis of controlled excavation. The continued expansion of monumental architecture in both urban centers and ex-urban areas in the 6th century reveals the creation of a Christian landscape on the island.

Recent works has shown that the Early Christian architectural traditions did not end with the political, military, and economic turmoil of the 7th century. While the absence of rigorously archaeological dating it remains difficult to determine when the churches built in the 5th and 6th century went out of use, it is evident that the persistence of basilica-style church architecture depended upon the structure and demography of settlement on the island, the role of seismic events in compromising the fragile fabric of these buildings, and the impact of military incursions. Amidst these challenges, communities continued to build new churches as carefully excavated examples from the rural coastal site of Maroni-Petrera and the inland village site of Kalavasos-Kopetra show. At the same time, an inscription commemorates the renovation of the large basilica at Soloi, perhaps in the aftermath of Arab raids. The south basilica at Arsinoe appears to have been converted from a wood-roofed building to a barrel vaulted structure. At the site of Kiti near Larnaka, the apse of an earlier basilica was incorporated in a new church in the early 7th century and decorated with a spectacular mosaic of the Panayia. In the mid-7th century, decorated apse of the church at Panayia Karnakaria at Lythrankomi saw a similar incorporation into a new building. Charles Stewart has recently argued that the small corpus of churches converted from wood-roofed to barrel-vaulted basilicas represents an 8th-century response to depredations of the 7th-century Arab raids. Recent study of the excavations at Polis-Chrysochous may suggest that this practice started a generation or two earlier. Whatever the cause and the specific date, Early Christian churches did not vanish from the island in the 7th century, and at least in some case continued to be the focus of investment for Christian communities into the Medieval period.

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

We’re up early at Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Headquarters watching the Australia v. New Zealand match in the Cricket T20 World Cup at breathtakingly gorgeous Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala. It’s a nice break from the all the college basketballing this time of year. 

The nice thing about college basketballing and cricket is the somewhat gentlemanly pace of play leaves plenty of time for reading across the interwebs and compiling a nice little list of quick hits and varia.

IMG 4354What?