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Dynamic Landscapes in Late Antique and Byzantine Anatolia: Pilgrimage, Travel Infrastructure, and Landscape Archaeology

Sarah Craft, Brown University, Summer Fellow 2011/12

The connectivity of the ancient Mediterranean has been demonstrated in many publications over the last decade. This approach foregrounds travel and movement and considers landscape as a dynamic place where movement was the norm. My project is a contribution to the understanding of dynamic landscapes through the lens of early Christian pilgrimage. Archaeological and textual sources do not always allow us to reach them directly, but it is possible to outline the infrastructure of the world through which pilgrims journeyed. It is within this context that a landscape archaeology approach to early Christian pilgrimage is perfectly poised.

Specifically, I explore the negotiation between the phenomenon of early Christian pilgrimage, the infrastructure of travel-the roads, bridges, shrines, and cemeteries-and the landscape and communities in which it took place. Using the vast amount of scholarship that already exists on both early Christian pilgrims and the historical geography of ancient Asia Minor as a foundation, I chose four pilgrimage destinations as case studies in order to investigate the regional, dynamic, and diverse contexts of early Christian pilgrimage: St. John at Ephesos, St. Thekla at Meryemlik, St. Theodore at Euchaïta, and St. Michael at Germia. I combine textual attestation of pilgrimage with the material correlates of movement and with analysis of those features in a Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based environment. The practice of pilgrimage contributed to the forms that local economies, settlement patterns, and religious practices developed and changed over time.

The research undertaken contributes to my doctoral dissertation, the prospectus for which I completed while at Dumbarton Oaks. An integrated investigation of pilgrimage, travel infrastructure, and landscape archaeology can contribute not just to a better contextualized understanding of early Christian pilgrimage in Asia Minor, but also to the ways we investigate and interpret the wider worlds of the late antique and Byzantine Mediterranean.

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