Samstag, 25. November 2017

Byzantine Winds at the National Conference of Italian Association of Byzantine Studies

A weblog entry by Laura Borghetti

When the honour of an official invitation to an important conference matches a bit of homesickness, travelling for academic reasons might turn into a truly marvellous experience. This is the way I felt after being invited to present a paper at the "XIV Giornata di Studi dell’AISB – Bisanzio nello spazio e nel tempo. Costantinopoli, la Siria", which took place in Rome on November the 10th-11th, 2017. The two day-long conference was organized by the "Associazione Italiana di Studi Bizantini" – in particular by Prof. Dr. Silvia Ronchey and Dr. Francesco Monticini – under the patronage of the Pontificio Istituto Orientale in Rome that kindly made the grand Aula Magna and other rooms available to the speakers and the audience [fig. 1]. 

Figure 1. Prof. Dr. Silvia Ronchey (Università degli Studi Roma Tre), Prof. Dr. Peter Schreiner (Universität Köln), Laura Borghetti (Universität Mainz) (Photo by Laura Borghetti).

The main aim of the "XIV Giornate" was to offer a wide overview of several aspects of the more recent research in the framework of the Byzantine Studies, from the philological, historical and artistic points of view. What distinguished this conference was its intention to match the authority of university professors – both Italian and international – with the more recent results of younger PhD students’ ongoing projects. This is how students from all over the world (Bloomington – Indiana, Mainz, Oxford, Roma) had the chance to sit and discuss together with outstanding academic personalities, such as Prof. Dr. Giuseppe De Gregorio (Università degli Studi di Salerno), Prof. Dr. Marc Lauxtermann (Oxford University), Prof. Dr. Paolo Odorico (EHESS Paris), Prof. Dr. Antonio Rigo (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari, president of the Associazione Italiana di Studi Bizantini), Prof. Dr. Yuri Saveliev (Russian Imperial Academy of Arts), Prof. Dr. Peter Schreiner (Universität Köln) [fig. 2]. The dean of the Pontificio Istituto Orientale himself, Father David Nazaar, also underlined how important it is to support younger scholars in their scientific path, especially in our historico-political era, when much of the former territories of the Byzantine Empire – together with their heritage of artistic masterpieces and manuscript tradition – are constantly threatened by dictatorships, internal wars and terrorism.

Figure 2. The Aula Magna at the Pontificio Istituto Orientale (Rome) (Photo by Laura Borghetti).

In conclusion, I can say that the experience of the "XIV Giornate dell’AISB" was for me very positive and fruitful. Going back to places such as the rooms and library of the Pontificio Istituto Orientale, where I spent long days during my studying time, and having the chance to present the most recent results of my dissertation project ("The Wind in the Macedonian Constantinople. Physics, Topography and Literary Role of a Natural Phenomenon") in that very framework, has been exciting and bracing. Both the exchange of ideas about sources and methodology with PhD colleagues and the positive feedbacks that I received from several academic personalities have made the conference in Rome a great incentive for my upcoming months of research.

Mittwoch, 15. November 2017

A report of the 2nd Meeting of the Research Network “Food in Anatolia and its Neighbouring Regions”, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Istanbul, November 03-04, 2017

A weblog entry by Sina Lehnig.

Once again, our research network "Food in Anatolia and its Neighbouring Regions" came together at the beautiful location of the Istanbul Department of the DAI (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut). Right behind the building, we were able to enjoy a stunning view of the Bosporus (Fig.1). What could be a better place to discuss the close interrelation between food and culture, than this melting pot between Europe and Asia?

Fig.1: The foreign researchers – including myself – were accommodated in one of the guestrooms at the DAI. From here, we had a wonderful view of the Bosporus (Photo by Sina Lehnig).
The demand for food is a basic human need and therefore a defining characteristic of all societies. What we eat and drink strongly reflects our cultural background, status, mobility and the knowledge we have of our natural environment. Although the investigation of diet could contribute to our understanding of past human societies, research approaches that address the interrelation between food and culture are still rare in the ancient cultural studies. In order to attract more attention to the important topic of past human diet, the Istanbul Department of the DAI has established the research network "Food in Anatolia and its Neighbouring Regions". It is one in a set of five networks that took place over the past ten years, addressing several themes like "Power and Hierarchies in the Urban and Rural Environment" and "Nature and Cult in Anatolia". Each network works for a period of three years, with up to two meetings each year. During the first meeting of the research network in March 2017, the participants – both junior and senior researchers from international institutes and universities – introduced themselves with their main research topics, focusing on dietary issues. It turned out that the participants of our network are investigating food in many different time periods, by using a great variety of methods reaching from the analysis of ancient written sources, over to the examination of pottery, to the study of faunal and botanical remains. These different research approaches obviously bear a great diachronic and interdisciplinary potential for the investigation of ancient diet within the network. A further point of our first meeting was the discussion of key questions that will frame the following sessions. For each session, we assigned a group of participants that will bear the responsibility for the organisation of themes, contributions and the invitation of guest speakers.

Finally we got together again in November 2017 to talk about the topics of "Food and Landscape" as well as "Food and Mobility". The organisational issues of the session were taken care of by Jesko Fildhuth, Bernhard Ludwig, Wolf-Rüdiger Teegen and me. 

It was my responsibility to open our meeting with an introduction to the topic of "Food and Landscape". The aim of my presentation was to sensitize the audience for the theme and to trigger questions that can be asked regarding the several types of landscapes that can be found in Anatolia and the surrounding areas. Since there is still no consistent definition of landscape in archaeology, as a first step, the term itself had to be discussed: Following several definitions of landscape from the scientific disciplines of ecology, geography and archaeology, landscape can be understood as a concept in between human cognition and action on the one hand, and independently existing natural resources on the other hand. Humans encounter a natural landscape and develop techniques to exploit and use this region. Here, the demand for food and drinking, is probably one of the most important factors that caused the human impact on the natural environment. Nevertheless, human knowledge of resource exploitation and cultural techniques, and also the preferences for specific food as well as climatic conditions differ in the case of each time period and region. Therefore, it can be assumed that we are dealing with a great diversity of landscape types in the research area. In order to achieve an interregional and diachronic comparison of the different landscapes in Anatolia, I made the proposal to gather information from the research areas that congregate in our network according to: natural resources available, resources that were actually used or not, cultural techniques applied to exploit a region, introduction of non-local plants and animals, as well as human-induced negative impact on the natural environment. 

Following my introduction, we had two contributions to the topic of "Food and Landscape": Peter Pavúk from the Charles University of Prague talked about natural resource exploitation, animal husbandry and storage in Troy during the Late Bronze Age period. Furthermore, Jean-Denis Vigne from the Muséum national d´Histoire in Paris, France gave a lecture about Early Neolithic Cyprus (Fig. 2). In the focus of his presentation was the introduction– both intentional and unintentional – of animal species, including wild boar, deer and mice from the mainland to the island of Cyprus. While it was possible to observe a transfer of animals, plants, raw material and architecture from the Anatolian mainland during the Early Neolithic, the island had a more isolated and independent development during the later periods. Although we already gained a great insight into food and landscape creation by these two lectures, the topic has the potential for much more presentations, which we will continue to pursue in our next sessions. 

Fig. 2: Jean-Denis Vigne talking about Early Neolithic Cyprus (Photo by Sina Lehnig).
My co-organiser Wolf-Rüdiger Teegen, who is an anthropologist and archaeologist at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, gave a further introduction to our second guiding theme: "Food and Mobility" (Fig. 3). Here, he focused on indicators of food and human mobility that can be traced by the application of isotope analysis. The study of oxygen isotopes allows us to determine geographic origin. They can help us to understand the trading of animals and the interconnection of different regions. Another interesting point of his introduction was the topic of parasites as markers of mobility. Matching this aspect of mobility, his guest speaker Piers Mitchell from the University of Cambridge, gave a great insight into his studies of parasites, originating from latrines in medieval Palestine (Fig.4). Furthermore, we heard a lecture by Elif Ünlü from the Bogazici University, about the increased trade of agricultural products within Early Bronze Age trade networks in the Eastern Mediterranean. Finally, Eva Winter from the University of Jena closed our conference day with a very entertaining lecture on her research on the role of donkeys in antiquity. 

Fig. 3: My co-organiser Wolf-Rüdiger Teegen giving his introduction to "Food and Mobility" (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

Fig. 4: Our guest speaker Piers Mitchell gave his lecture on parasitology via Skype (Photo by Sina Lehnig).
After discussing food in ancient times the entire day, we developed a great appetite to test some contemporary Turkish dishes. Therefore, to round off the day, the DAI invited us to one of the cosy restaurants nearby the Istiklal Caddesi (Fig. 5). My highlight was the Künefe, a Turkish and Arabic pastry, made from cheese and kadaif noodles, which was served as a dessert. 

Fig. 5: Enjoying Turkish dishes! (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

The next day was dedicated to the visit of the Süleymaniye Mosque (Fig. 6) and its kitchen complexes. Here, we got a guided tour around the area (Fig. 7). 

Fig. 6: Beautiful Süleymaniye Mosque (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

Fig. 7: Our guide and the network in front of the mosque (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

This month's meeting of our research network was again a very fruitful experience for me. I had the possibility to exchange with people who not only have the same research interests as mine, but also are nice, friendly and valuable new contacts for me. It was a lot of fun to talk shop, eat, drink and experience wonderful Istanbul with them. I am already looking forward to our next meeting in March 2018. 

Will keep you posted!

Verleihung des „Human Roots Award“ an Richard Dawkins in Schloss Monrepos

Ein Beitrag von Sebastian Müller.
Am 10.11.2017 verlieh das Archäologische Forschungszentrum und Museum für menschliche Verhaltensweisen im Schloss Monrepos erstmals den "Human Roots Award", der für herausragenden Einfluss auf unser Verständnis der Archäologie unserer Verhaltensevolution vergeben wird und dazu beitragen soll, die interdisziplinäre Auseinandersetzung zwischen Pleistozäner Archäologie und den umliegenden Disziplinen zu stärken, die bedeutend für die Erforschung des Lebens der Menschen im Pleistozän sind. Als erster Empfänger dieses Preis wurde kein geringerer als der äußerst renommierte Evolutions- und Verhaltensbiologe Richard Dawkins auserkoren, der einer breiten Öffentlichkeit durch die Theorie des egoistischen Gens, die Memetik und seine vehemente Religionskritik bekannt ist. Auf Einladung der Leiterin des Forschungszentrums, Prof. Dr. Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, nahmen 12 Mitglieder des GRKs an der Preisverleihung teil.

Nach unserer Ankunft im Schloss erhielten wir zunächst Führungen durch das Museum für menschliche Verhaltensweisen, welches in beeindruckender Weise die Lebensformen der verschiedenen Vor- und Frühmenschen von den Australopithecen bis zur Sesshaftwerdung des modernen Menschen und ihren Folgen darstellt und mit einer Vielzahl an Darstellungs- und Interaktionsmöglichkeiten auch fachfremde Besucher sofort fesselt.

Blick ins Museum für menschliche Verhaltensweisen (Foto: Rebekka Pabst).

Hiernach begann die Preisverleihung, die durch eine Erläuterung der Hintergründe und Ziele der Preisverleihung durch Frau Gaudzinski-Windheuser und ein Grußwort von Dr. Bernolf Eibl-Eibesfeldt eingeleitet wurde, dessen Vater Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Begründer der Humanethologie, die Schirmherrschaft über den Preis übernommen hat. Es folgten kurze Vorträge von zwei Mitarbeitern des Forschungszentrums, Dr. Lutz Kindler und Dr. Olaf Jöris, die die vielfältigen Leistungen, aber auch die Kontroversen, die Dawkins' wissenschaftliche Laufbahn ausmachen, ins Zentrum stellten.

Frau Gaudzinski-Windheuser eröffnet die Preisverleihung (Foto: Sina Lehnig).

Nach der Preisverleihung kam es dann zum Höhepunkt des Abends, dem Vortrag von Richard Dawkins selbst. Dieser stellte die Entwicklung seines eigenen Feldes, der Verhaltensforschung vor, die sich zur Soziobiologie wandelte und mit der Evolutionären Psychologie einen einflussreichen Ableger erhielt. In diesem Kontext stellt er seine höchst einflussreiche Idee des egoistischen Gens vor. In ihrem Kern läuft diese darauf hinaus, dass eine Verhaltensweise V1 gegenüber V2 dann selektiert wird, wenn durch sie im Verhältnis eine höhere Weitergabe der Gene des Trägers erreicht wird. Zu den Missverständnissen, die zu den Kontroversen um diese Theorie beigetragen haben, äußerte er sich ebenfalls, so zum Argument des Ethnologen Marshall Sahlins, nach dem dies so nicht funktionieren kann, da die mathematische Kompetenz der Angehöriger vieler Kulturen nicht zur Berechnung der Werte von V1 und V2 genügt. Diese verkennt, dass der Mechanismus hinter der Selektion von V1 keineswegs bekannt sein muss, um wirksam zu sein - er betrifft schließlich den gesamten Bereich der Lebewesen, auch solcher, denen wir überhaupt keine mathematische Kompetentz zuschreiben würden.

Richard Dawkins mit Mitgliedern des GRKs (Foto: Rebekka Pabst).

Nachdem wir diese Vielzahl an Impulsen erhalten hatten, durften wir den Abend zu köstlichem, steinzeitlich angehauchtem Fingerfood und Musik ausklingen lassen.

Dienstag, 7. November 2017

Under the Mediterranean. The Honor Frost Foundation Conference on Mediterranean Maritime Archaeology to commemorate the Anniversary of the Centenary of Honor Frost’s birth on the Island of Cyprus (28 October 1917). 20-23 October 2017, Nicosia, Cyprus.

Blog entry by Mari Yamasaki.

The Lady of the Sea and the Honor Frost Foundation

Of an English family, Honor Frost was born in Nicosia, Cyprus, in October 1917. She was a pioneer in the field of underwater and maritime archaeology. She was one of the first to take the archaeological investigation beyond its land borders and into the sea. She explored the submerged harbours of Byblos, Sidon and Tyre; she took part in the excavation of the shipwreck of Cape Gelidonya with George Bass and Peter Throckmorton, and was the first to identify it as a Phoenician vessel, thus demonstrating that Phoenicians were sailing across the Eastern Mediterranean already during the Bronze Age. 
In October 2017, she would have turned 100 years old, and it is to her, Honor Frost, the Lady of the Sea, that this conference was dedicated. The venue was the very modern Campus of the University of Cyprus (Figure 1), which, together with the University of Southampton (UK) is one of the two institutions to offer a degree in Maritime Archaeology. And not by chance, the two organisers, Stella Demesticha and Lucy Blue are chairs of the respective courses in Cyprus and Great Britain. The very first session “In the footsteps of Honor Frost” was thus devoted to the collection of personal memories of the many scholars who had the chance of working with her. Rare photos were shown, funny anecdotes and sweet recollections were narrated during this first touching session, where the scientific admiration for the archaeologist went hand in hand with profound appreciation for the person.

Figure 1. University of Cyprus. Campus (Photo by Mari Yamasaki).


The Maritime Cultural Landscape

Honor Frost maintained that the world of a coastal community does not end at the border with water. In the same way a maritime-oriented way of life does not end upon touching the shore. Therefore, the study of the Maritime Cultural Landscape comprises not only harbours and shipwrecks, but also a constellation of land features that denote their marine orientation. The study of this liminal environment may be approached from a variety of perspectives and disciplines as the two sessions dedicated to the topic, namely “Maritime Cultural Landscape” and “Maritimity” proved. The two main threads that the majority of the talks followed may be summarised as: 
  •  Archaeo-geomorphological approaches, focused on the reconstruction of the ancient coastlines;
  •  Ethnoarchaeological approaches, interested in individuating the cultural variables of coastalness through comparison with ethnographical contexts.
The geomorphological case studies chronologically ranged from the Palaeolithic to the Middle Ages, and posed a variety of research questions. Most evident was the concern with the identification of the ancient ports and anchorages: such was the case of the embayment of Marsa Bagoush, presented by Ehmad Khalil, or the geophysical implications in the study of the port of Byblos, as shown in the co-authored paper by George Papatheodorou et al.; another major point was ascertaining the existence of land bridges between islands in the remote past, which would have allowed for an easy access of now isolated sites – or alternatively prove the seafaring ability of some groups of early humans, as was the case with the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago illustrated by Dimitris Sakellaris et al.. Lastly, Ehug Galili showed the importance of moving the investigation underwater in search for potential submerged sites, by presenting his most celebrated discovery: the submerged Neolithic fishing village of Atlit Yam.
The ethnoarchaeological approach focused on the material culture remains that may indicate a marine-oriented and coast-centered lifestyle. A very interesting talk by Linda Hulin examined the evidence for taverns and inns in known Bronze Age harbor towns, which showed an unusual concentration of non-local goods, but in a very small scale. According to her interpretation of the record, many low-profile imported potteries from a variety of different regions suggest the frequentation of the tavern by people of different provenances, engaged in small scale – yet long distance – exchange of goods, or as Michal Artzy proposed, the existence of a sailors meeting place where they would trade their few possessions. My own take on the topic referred to the coastal landmarks – particularly on the architectural features – that may have helped a ship in her sailing towards ports and anchorages (Fig. 2). Shelley Wachsmann proposed a fascinating review of the evidence for the survival of an ancient marine ritual, the Navigium Isisidis, into modern day Orthodox Easter celebrations on the Greek island of Hydra.

Figure 2. The author during her talk (Photo by Francesca Meneghetti).

Maritime Cyprus

Being in Cyprus, it would have been impossible to not talk about the peculiarities of this island, located in the middle of the Eastern Mediterranean yet somewhat estranged from the sea for a long portion of its cultural history. The relationship between Cyprus and the Sea is a complex one, which was at the centre of a symposium specifically dedicated to this topic in 1993.[i] Much work has been done in the last 24 years, and during the dedicated session at the present conference, the most recent developments concerning the study of Cypriot harbours and interregional connections were presented. Many were the controversies concerning the location of historical ports known from the literary sources that, apparently, did not match the archaeological evidence. Such was the case illustrated by Nikola Babucic and the Polish research group on the “triple” port of Paphos, which has not yet been identified; or also the Hellenistic port of Amathous, as presented by Jean-Yves Empereur, which appears to have been built with grandiose intents, but was never actually used.
An interesting ethnoarchaeological account, which John Leonard balanced between ancient sources and modern accounts from less than a century ago, referred to the carob trade as a major – often neglected – resource of the island, and how the local, agricultural produce bypassed the larger harbours in favour of closer, small anchorages to sell their “brown gold” to avoid duties on the cargo and maximise the individual farmers’ own profit.

Connected by the Sea

Quite naturally, another main chapter of the conference was dedicated to ancient navigation and connectivity with four sessions dealing with ports and harbours, shipwrecks, ship construction and connectivity. Bernard Knapp (Fig. 3), an authority when it comes to Mediterranean connectivity, presented a brilliant and quite entertaining talk on piracy in the Bronze Age, which reviewed the evidence – or better lack thereof – of a phenomenon already well known from classical sources, the origins of which, however, are still eluding us. Ports and harbours were also the subject of several talks, many of which dealt with the geomorphological problems of locating the ancient structures along sometimes considerably different modern landscapes. The survey and excavation of hellenistic Ainos, conducted by the Mainz Romano-Germanic Central Museum and presented by Thomas Schmidts, brilliantly summarised the difficulties and challenges of dealing with an ever-changing coastal area.

Figure 3. A. Bernard Knapp during his talk (Photo by Mari Yamasaki).

Tightly related to the study of ports is that of ancient ships and their construction. A number of projects were presented, among which I would like to mention here the excavation of a Byzantine merchantman that sunk in the Commercial Port of Rhodes around the second half of 12th century. As Eric Rieth and George Koutsouflakis said, the difficulties in this case lay mostly on the location of the wreck in the channel of a busy port of the Mediterranean. Whilst at a relatively accessible depth, the continuous traffic of large cruise ships represented a hazard both for the remains and for the excavation crew. The controversial decision of re-burying the ship was not unanimously positively judged by the conference audience and was subjected to some criticism. This shows, however, how it is not always possible to reconcile heritage management practices, scientific interest and contemporary economic demands, and that archaeologists who find themselves in such predicaments have often to reinvent the rules and accept difficult compromises. Less dramatic but just as interesting was the account by Avner Hillman and Deborah Cvikel of the exerimental reconstruction of the Ma’agan Mikhael II by following as closely as possible all the evidences for ship building techniques. 

The Kyrenia Liberty: sailing back in time

To conclude with another famous ship reconstruction, at the end of the conference we were offered the possibility of sailing on board the Kyrenia Liberty (Fig. 4), the faithful replica of a 4th century BC Greek merchantman that sunk right off the shore of Kyrenia, and named after the find spot. The Kyrenia wreck was in an exceptional state of preservation, which allowed the study of the ship construction techniques, including evidences for maintenance and repairs. Following this study, three experimental replicas were build, differing in those elements that could not be inferred directly from the wreck. The Kyrenia Liberty is the last of them. On board this beautiful craft, we were shown all the characteristics resulting from the lessons learnt from her two predecessors, including a new angle of the stirring oar, a more efficient – and realistic – rigging, and increased manoeuvrability of the single square sail. During our short trip we reached a comfortable top speed of 5 knots (ca. 9 km/h) that would have been sufficient to connect Cyprus with the Aegean and Egypt. Longer experimental trips to the Greek islands have shown the limits and potentials of a seafaring vessel of this type, especially concerning her reliance on favourable winds since ancient square rigs could not tackle. 

Figure 4. The Kyrenia Liberty and the flag of the Honor Frost Foundation (Photo by Mari Yamasaki).

And with favourable winds, we sailed in the sunset back to Limassol Marina where we parted ways with new and old colleagues, all of us hoping to continue our research "in the footsteps of Honor Frost".

[i] Karageorghis et al. (Eds.). Proceedings of the International Symposium Cyprus and the Sea. 1995.