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Late Antique and Byzantine Rural Settlements in Caria (Western Asia Minor) in the Light of New Archaeological Evidence

Ufuk Serin, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, Summer Fellow 2008–2009

My research at Dumbarton Oaks surveys the rural settlements and countryside in Caria in the late antique and Byzantine periods. This research is part of a larger project, including a comprehensive archaeological survey of the Gulf of Mandalya from the pre-Hellenistic through the Byzantine periods. The archaeological survey of the Gulf of Mandalya is directed by Professor R. Pierobon Benoit from the University of Naples Federico Ⅱ, and covers the results of five years of fieldwork (2003–2007). The surveyed area largely remains under the jurisdiction of Iasos (mod. Kıyıkışlacık), the major city in the area, giving its name to the entire territory.

As for the late antique and Byzantine periods, the archaeological evidence in the surveyed area comprises the remnants of two late antique villages, several churches (isolated or in association with other structures), a small bath building, as well as the ruins of several different identified (cisterns, necropoleis, fortifications) and unidentified structures. To these must be added surface finds, particularly architectural elements and pottery.

In this context, my research at Dumbarton Oaks has mainly focused on the understanding and identification of different types of rural dwelling units and areas (villages, habitats, and farmhouses) in terms of settlement patterns, land use, and management, not only in the surveyed area but also throughout the entire Byzantine Asia Minor. In comparison to some other regions of the Byzantine Empire (e.g., Jordan, Palestine, Syria, as well as Macedonia, parts of Greece, and southern Italy), research into rural settlements in Asia Minor is still limited, with the exception of Bithynia, Central Anatolia, Cilicia, Lycia, and the Euphrates Valley in southern Turkey. The two late antique villages discovered at Alagün and Zindaf Kale in the 2005 and 2006 seasons are particularly worth noting. The settlement at Zindaf Kale includes the remnants of several structures, two of which are relatively well preserved, with a major period of occupation attributable to the fifth–seventh centuries AD. The archaeological evidence indicates that the area was also inhabited through the later Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

My research also included a typological study of the small provincial baths in western and southern Asia Minor. The remnants of a small structure—somehow identified by previous scholars as a church—found at Zeytinlikuyu to the southeast of Iasos belongs, indeed, to a bathhouse, as indicated by the steam channels into the arched doorway connecting the two inner spaces, and the remains of cocciopesto. Little of this structure is visible; however, it probably belonged to a type of bath classified as the “row (or linear) arrangement” common on the southwestern coast of Asia Minor, particularly in Lycia, from the Roman through the early Byzantine periods. The remnants of a large basilica recovered nearby indicate that the bath was included in a larger, and probably ecclesiastical, complex.

This summer fellowship has also enabled me to complete another publication, Making Byzantium Understood: Re-Interpretation and Representation of Byzantine Cultural Heritage in Turkey, which is included in a three-year project (2005–2008) funded by the European Commission.European Commission: Euromed Heritage Ⅲ: Byzantium-Early Islam (ByzeIs), Project Nº ME8/AIDOC/2000/2095–13 (CRIS 2003/076–566). This project, coordinated by Elliniki Etairia, Thessaloniki Branch, includes, along with the Middle East Technical University/Ankara, a partnership of different institutions, from Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. The aim of this project was to determine the best practice methods for a better management of the Byzantine and early Islamic cultural heritage in the Mediterranean region.