The Christianization of island landscapes in Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages: New perspectives from Naxos in the Aegean

Sam Turner, James Crow

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract

To understand the impact of religious change in the landscapes of the early Middle Ages (AD c. 600–1000) is a significant challenge for scholars in many parts of Europe and the Mediterranean. Our knowledge of the structure and experience of sacred space after Late Antiquity is not only restricted by the difficulty of identifying sacred sites, but also by our relatively limited understanding of contemporary settlements and land-use patterns. Across much of the eastern Mediterranean few documentary sources for daily life survive, and the narrative and hagiographical sources which do exist often suggest desolate landscapes. Previous generations of archaeologists have sometimes accepted this picture uncritically, leading them to assume that island landscapes were depopulated until sometime in the Middle Byzantine centuries. The difficulty of identifying characteristic material remains such as ceramics and consequently the apparent absence of finds seemed to confirm the abandonment suggested by the documentary sources.

Careful examination of the documentary record and the archaeological evidence yields hints of a more complex history. Recent collaborative fieldwork on Naxos in the Cyclades has begun to unravel previously unsuspected complexities through case-studies in the central parts of the island. Naxos provides exceptional opportunities to explore the nature of Christianisation in the early and middle Byzantine periods. This paper presents some interim results from research on Naxos through examples which illustrate the Christianisation of both rural and urban space between the seventh and the tenth centuries.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChange and Resilience
Subtitle of host publicationThe Occupation of Mediterranean Islands in Late Antiquity
EditorsMiguel Ángel Cau Ontiveros, Catalina Mas Florit
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxbow Books, Oxford
Pages217-234
ISBN (Print)9781789251807
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2019

Publication series

NameJoukowsky Institute Publication
Volume9

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