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Late Byzantine Rural Sites in the North Aegean: Their Archaeology and Distribution Patterns

Fotini Kondyli, University of Birmingham, Junior Fellow 2008–2009

During my fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, my aim was to prepare for both electronic and standard publication of my recently completed PhD thesis entitled “Late Byzantine Rural Sites in the Northern Aegean: Their Archaeology and Distribution Patterns,” successfully defended at the University of Birmingham in December 2008. For my PhD thesis, I studied late Byzantine site function and distribution, factors influencing sites' location, the economic activities of rural sites, communication and trade routes, and the formation of fortification networks on the islands of Lemnos and Thasos in the North Aegean. My work focused not only on the identification and study of settlements but also of other sites such as forts, monastic estates, and activity loci on the two islands. Further, I developed a methodological framework that integrated archaeology with primary sources and ethnography in order to develop a holistic understanding of economy, the use of space, and societal change in the North Aegean during the late Byzantine period.

At Dumbarton Oaks, I also focused on advancing my work on the archaeology and distribution of late Byzantine sites and the economic exploitation and spatial organization of the rural landscape in a series of articles and conference papers. In one article, I am analyzing comparative material from excavations and multiperiod surveys in Greece in order to discuss the role of Byzantine archaeology in multiperiod projects in the Mediterranean. As part of this work, I am also critically evaluating the methodologies employed by previous studies in Byzantine settlement archaeology in order to develop a more sophisticated approach to understanding the Byzantine landscape. In doing so, I make intense use of reports, monographs, PhD theses, and journals dealing with similar archaeological investigations around the Mediterranean. The second article completed during my fellowship explores the economic activities of Byzantine monasteries in the late Byzantine period, using an interdisciplinary approach and combining my work archaeological, documentary, and ethnographic data with GIS spatial analysis. The two conference papers I completed this year, both to be presented in June 2009, deal with aspects of trade and traveling in the late medieval Mediterranean.

The research I undertook during my fellowship attempted to present and analyze aspects of the late Byzantine rural landscape and its settlements using an interdisciplinary approach. I had the opportunity to provide new data and different approaches on methodology, analysis, and interpretation of data, as well as discuss new aspects of the archaeology of the late Byzantine village and of the human-landscape interface in the Byzantine world.