Friday, June 20, 2008

Medieval Settlements: Morea Itinerary 2008

For a variety of reasons (the Euro, pending parenthood, need to write, nestle, scrape-and-paint old house), I'm not doing any archaeological fieldwork this summer. This means that I couldn't be in the Peloponnese when friends and colleagues will be passing through. In early June, I wrote up a little itinerary for sight-seeing medieval settlements and domestic architecture. A couple of friends have asked me advice, so I've decided to post this itinerary on my blog. It was written in a stream-of-consciousness flow so it's all over the place. Hopefully it is a little useful.


This is a great time for me to mentally travel to the Peloponnese, as I try to finish up my book manuscript Stones of the Morea: Medieval Village Architecture. Unfortunately, you won’t get to see the Morea Project exhibit that was on display at Kastro Chlemoutsi from 2004 to 2007 (more about Kastro Chlemoutsi later). At least the book, Houses of the Morea: Vernacular Architecture of the Northwest Peloponnesos (1205-1955) ed. Fred Cooper (Athens: Melissa, 2003) should be on sale through Oxbow/David Brown. In my book manuscript (and dissertation), I go through all the settlement sites in the NW Peloponnese and gives a comprehensive description of the evidence; it contains more information than any traveler would ever need. The GPS coordinates should can navigate one to all the sites quite precisely. I have used UTM coordinates (in meters) rather than the U.S. standard of Latitude/Longitude.

Regrettably not much has happened in the field of domestic architecture in the Peloponnese in the last few years, at least not in terms of standing, articulated buildings. The Palace of the Despots at Mystras, of course, has been restored into a conference center and more of the tower houses in the Mani have been spruced up, and this has helped here and there in scholarship. Most of the European Union funds given to Ephorias in the last 5-some years have been ear-marked for restoration expenses, which explains the recent flurry of activities in site-improvement, but it has also forced Greek archaeologists to commit more on paper. First there was the Byzantine Hours exhibition (and catalogue), split between Athens, Thessaloniki and Mystras with its attention on daily life. In addition, there is a nice short book on the Mani with lots of pictures by Koukouris et al (2004) and a collection of papers edited by Kardara on more archaeological evidence (for wine presses, etc.)

But enough of bibliography, back on to the itinerary. Some of the Peloponnesian restoration resources have been put on castles, which may not be what you’re looking for, but at least they have revealed more domestic features. Kastro Chlemoutsi on the NW tip is a good example. Here, the Ministry of Culture is restoring spaces to house a new Museum of Frankish Antiquities. The museum hasn’t opened yet, but Demetris Athanasoulis (now Ephor of the Korinthia and Argolid) has been overseeing the project. You should also visit the nearby site, Glarentza (5 km SW, right on the coast, next to the Kyllene, the port for Zakynthos). I’ve started a Clemson project here, documenting the city’s walls. Glarentza is built over ancient Kyllene, founded by the Franks in the 13c. Demetris has excavated the Cathedral and has produced amazing stuff, frescoes, burials, multiple phasing with good archaeological contexts (which he will present at next year’s Dumbarton Oaks conference). My interests on the site is that it’s one of the few ex-nuovo cities in the Peloponnese. Excavations at the citadel and the structural chronology of the architecture, moreover, reveals that the Paleologues in fact rebuilt parts of it. According to the Chronicle of the Morea, they destroyed it completely to set an example; the archaeology shows this to be not true, plus it means that much of what was heralded as a 13c city is in fact a 15c city. At the citadel we have a Frankish palace underneath a Byzantine palace. Unfortunately, this is all trenches and covered up. There is very little above ground (the site is farmed) and no visible domestic architecture.

Another urban site that has become very very hot is Ancient Messene, because a “Dark Age” settlement has been excavated here. Last time I was at the site (5 years ago), the houses were still visible (only about a meter above ground). They are located right next to the Early Christian basilica, see Elias Anagnostakes and Natalia Poulou-Papademetriou, “Η πρωτοβυζαντινή Μεσσήνη (5ος-7ος αιώνας) και προβλήματα της χειροποίητης κεραμικής στην Πελοπόννησο," Συμμεικτά 11 (1997), pp. 229-322. If you go to Messene, check out a fabulous gender-bending 4c statue in the Museum: an ancient Diana converted into a Late Roman general (it’s one of my favorites, similar to those published from Aphrodisias, etc.) Petros Themelis, the site director, has been doing lots and lots of rebuilding (Fred Cooper and Peter Brucke are working on a restoration of the Heroon at the tip of the stadium). The Costopoulos Foundation (Costopoulos is the owner of Alpha Bank) is financing part of the restorations. Costopoulos’ patronage is better known in the U.S. through the support of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Make sure you also go to Corinth and meet with Guy Sanders, the assistant director Ioulia Tzonou-Herbst, and the project architect James Herbst (archaeology’s jewels). The American School has started digging a new plot of land called “Pietri.” This is only the second season, and last year they were still on topsoil and 19c/20c layers. Guy has chosen this location precisely for its domestic architecture. It basically connects up to the houses excavated by Henry Robinson S of the South Stoa in the late ’50s, see Hesperia 31 (1962), 95-133. The Corinth excavations serve as the training ground for ASCSA students; there is a two-part training session going on now, so it might be a little hectic and crazy. And of course, make sure to check out “Carpenter’s Folly,” which (unfortunately) has been roped off and you can’t climb up around and through it. Make sure to also see Charles William’s Frankish excavations; they’re fairly domestic, too, a hospital, tavern complex. They are next to Temple E; they are roped off, but if you’re with someone from the School you’ll be able to walk through. They are very well published by Mr. Williams in Hesperia . Speaking of Corinth, I thought that Guy Sanders’ and Michael Boyd’s paper “Moving Homes: A Resistivity Survey of the Late Antique City Wall East of the Forum at Corinth,” at the 2008 Annual AIA Meetings in Chicago has incredible repercussions. Guy has been talking about this theory for a few years but seeing Michael provide proof was great. For over a century, people assumed that the core of the Byzantine city would overlap the core of the ancient city. It seems that the Byzantine core was further E and the ’20s/’30s excavated houses were in the periphery. The Byzantine city survives only in the excavation notebooks. Few visible remain from the 1930s include the Central Area Tower Complex (very deep foundations right on the Roman Forum, now serving as backdrop for Roman senatorial statue) and the fabricated “Carpenter Folly" (see Kourelis 2007)

Most of the excitement from Peloponnesian archaeology comes from the countryside and surface surveys (I’m very biased). But, as you know, very little is visible. Now that all of the heroic surveys of the 1980s are being published, I think we have a pretty good idea about what happened: shrinking of towns, boom of Early Byz villa rustica’s, Dark Ages slowly coming into focus, dispersed 8c-11c villages, and nucleated 12c-16c hilltop villages. I believe that mortar was rarely used in non-religious and non-fortification structures before the 14c which makes bad survival rates. Add to this mudbrick construction (like the house in Eleian Pylos excavated by John Coleman), and the tectonic plate that runs under the western Peloponnese, and you have low monumental visibility. Moreover, the churches (often monastic) are not in the same place as the settlements. And credit goes to Marylee Coulson for first discovering this phenomenon: monasteries unprotected in the plains with settlements further up the hilltops. So, architectural historians have been looking at the wrong places.

Nevertheless, there is a little bit to see. And here is my list of greatest hits. Probably the most accessible pile of rocks in my study area is the site of Santomeri, named after the Frankish Saint-Omer, who had a “palace” in Thebes. In fact, if you find yourself at the Thebes museum, the medieval tower is attributed to him. Despite the obvious toponym, I don’t think any of these settlements are particularly Latin or Greek, actually I believe that the urbanistic boom had occurred before the 1206 conquest. Most of my sites are off the road network and require hours of hiking. Luckily, Santomeri has been exploited by a local ex-mayor who has built (with EU money) a hotel for poets! Since no poets showed up, he rents it to Austrian paragliders, who come to train every summer. To find medieval Santomeri, head to the modern village of the same name (a lovely 18c/19c village) but veer left driving up towards a chapel and the bungalows of Mr. Kostantakopoulos. You can park there and walk up to the top of the mountain (about 20 mins walk). Mr. Kostantakopoulos has even built some steps -- before that the climb was treacherous. The site extends over a few killometers. The view is spectacular, you can see all the way into the peaks of Arcadia (many other medieval villages in view) and the coast of Patras. Believe it or not, it’s bigger than Mystras. All you can see is the pile of rubble marking (once your eyes get used to discerning them) the house outlines, corners, doors. The best way to get to Santomeri is to take the road heading S near Theriano (between Patras and Kato Achaia). Marina Maritsa is an interesting convent nearby, but you must be there at visiting hours. MountSkollis (and Mount Skiadovouni, the next range to the SE) is peppered with interesting cave architecture, but I would have to take you there (lots of hiking impossible to find on one’s own). Caves are something I’ve been thinking about as a normal component of the domestic landscape. Seen from the point of view of a pastoral cycle, they were seasonally inhabited. They are predominantly discussed as monastic, because of the occasional chapels founded within them, but I think the story is more complex. Pastoral cave sanctuaries were also common in antiquity (Pan sanctuaries have been documented throughout this area; e.g. Pieter Brucke's Master's thesis). But I believe the sacred function presupposes a secular function; in other words, those holy monks were far from secluded, they were surrounded by both hilltop settlements and other seasonal (summer-pasture) cave dwellings. As far as I know, no-one has looked at the cave architecture in the Peloponnese (for sure not in my study area with the exception of frescoes). There is evidence of quarrying as well as masonry structures within natural caves. The only easily accessible example of cave architecture is the site of Petrochori/Dragano. Orlandos published an article on the standing church, but didn’t mention anything about the caves further up the slopes. Cave architecture in the Peloponnese is unexplored because it takes hours and hours of hiking; which is good from the preservation stand-point. There is also an interesting technological interest. The medieval hilltop settlements are quarried on-site. The houses are sunken into the limestone outcropping; so you have a mutual process of hollowing out and building up (very efficient). Although the geology is limestone, and much harder than Cappadocia etc., I’m imagining a mental/conceptual continuum that links piled-unworked-blocks (remember, no mortar) to the quarrying of caves. Building on stone (and I think they chose the hilltop outcroppings specifically for its material) creates an additional interesting problem: where to bury your dead. In my only two examples of cemeteries, it seems like they brought their dead further down the slopes where they could find alluvial soil. Although not visible today, Santomeri has evidence of a cemetery. This came up when they were cutting the road that leads up to the site.

If you do make it to the western Peloponnese (Chlemoutsi, Glarentza, Patras Castle, Santomeri), make sure you go to Olympia, too. The famous Slavic pottery excavated in the 60s is now on display, inside the spiffy restored museum exhibits (thanks to the 2004 Olympics). It’s really quite wonderful now. The old neoclassical museum has been restored and there is also a nice exhibit of the history of the German excavations (a little museum next to the Old Museum). The domestic architecture of Byz Olympia (published by Dörpfeld etc, in the 1890s, has also received further scholarly attention). Along the road to Olympia, as you drive through the pine forest (birthplace of the Centaurs), you will see some restaurants advertising roasted piglets on the side of the road. These are the best. The “-poulos” ending of so many Greek names demarcates Peloponnesian origin, local dialect for “son of.” So, for piglets, just look for “γουρούνι” (pig) and “πουλο” (son of) = “γουρουνόπουλο” Although, the final Peloponnesian gourounopoulo is had at the site of Ancient Stymphalis.

You might also want to stop by at Pyrgos. Look for the “Agora,” the neoclassical market, a Ziller building, which will house the new archaeological museum. The area around the market has been landscaped. Although not properly carried out by the city, the urban/landscape design around the museum are based on Miltos Katsaros' and Damianos Abakoumpkin's winning Europan competition). If you head to the SW Peloponnese towards Tripolis, or the Mani, make sure you drive up the Castle of Kyparissia (medieval Arkadia). There is a little café, where I’ve had the most enjoyable ouzos of my life, thanks to the view over the bay. Right before the entrance to the castle, there is a little square. A famous Greek poet lived in the corner and the house next door contains the remnants of a mosque.

Last summer, I left Greece before the horrific fires. So, I haven’t seen the devastation, but from pictures it seemed almost lunar. I hope driving through these burned out areas is not horrible depressing. Perhaps I'm glad not to be traveling this year and not have to see the decimated landscape.

Leaving the NW-Peloponnese, I would recommend the site of Geraki. The architecture was published in DChAE 15 (2004) 111-125, and it’s difficult to inspect. Although one can see the many churches (illegally published by Moutsopoulos and Demetrokalles) on the plains, the settlement is fenced and locked. If you have not been to Monemvasia, of course, it’s a MUST and nice treat especially is Harris and Alexandros Kalliga are in town.

If there were a site that I would like to investigate outside of the NW study area, it would be Mouchli in Arcadia (UTM coordinates: 34S 633664, 4154806). Effie Athanassopoulos has discussed a future project. It’s in the middle of nowhere, right by the side of the road and easy to visit. Once again, don’t expect much beyond wall foundations. Moutsopoulos published a couple of house plans in Vyzantina 13 (1985) 321-353; see also Eugene Darkó, Eugene. 1933. “Η ιστορική σημασία και τα σπουδαιότερα ερείπια του Μουχλίου,” ΕpetByz 10 (1933), pp. 454-482, and “Die Gründung der Festung Muchli,” in Εις μνήμην Σπυρίδωνος Λάμπρου (Athens, 1935), pp. 228-231.

Returning to the Corinthia, on must connect with Tim Gregory and Lita Tzortzopoulou-Gregory. If they are not in the village of Ancient Corinth, they must be doing fieldwork in Kythera. At some point (I don’t have their dates), Bill Caraher and Dave Pettegrew, will be investigating a new site, a village near Sophiko. It was part of the East Korinthia survey (EKAS). Next summer, inshallah, I hope to join them in a new project, the Lakka-Skoutara rural settlement. Bill and Dave are now finishing up their survey in Cyprus (the Pyla-Koutsopetra Archaeological Project--PKAP), and I don’t remember their dates for Lakka-Skoutara. If you overlap, they would be a great guide for the hinterland. While in the Corinthia, you might also check out a little-known medieval settlement that Tim Gregory worked on (part of EKAS), Agios Vasileios; it’s only been published in Archaeology 50 (May/June 1997), pp. 54-58.

Speaking of Tim Gregory, he was an NEH Scholar at the American School this last year working on a new book, an archaeological history of medieval Greece. And Bill Caraher was the Carpenter Professor. Bill has been very instrumental in the Medieval and Post-Medieval AIA Interest Group, and one of the things we’ve been playing around with is podcasting events sponsored by the group. For instance, we put our Chicago AIA session (on the archaeology of Greek immigration) on-line. Bill has also been uploading lectures from the ASCSA, including Tim’s presentation, three case studies from his book, “A New History of Byzantine Greece: An Archaeological Perspective,” Gennadius Lecture, Athens, April 8, 2008. You probably don’t have time to listen to the whole thing before your leave, but maybe you can download it here.

Another interesting project in the Corinthia is the Sikyon Survey, directed by Yannis Lolos; a very international collaborative. So far, they haven’t hit the areas with the medieval material (overlapping the modern village of Vasiliko), but they are producing some great stuff on the historical geography of the site. Their field season is in July, so you’ll probably miss them. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in the area, check out the Sikyon Museum. It had been closed for years, and just reopened. The building itself is interesting, it was designed by Orlandos on top of a Roman bath he had excavated (must have been influenced by the contemporary ClunyOrlandos’ role in Sikyon is very interesting. He excavated the site in the 1930s and then suddenly never returned. Although I haven’t verified this, it seems that he was the subject of a homophobic hate-crime. According to Yannis, the story goes that someone killed his lover, who was a local. Orlandos was so upset that he vowed never to return to the site. Yannis did his dissertation at Berkeley, taught at Michigan for a little bit and is now at the University of Volos; the project is co-directed by Ben Gurley, who teaches at York and is also field-director in Stymphalis. Hesperia Supplements Series is publishing Yannis dissertation this year, which looks at the entire territory. There is no secular architecture at Sikyon beyond some walls, but there is interesting material in the area (churches, medieval aqueducts, etc.) Like many other sites, Sikyon hopped around from period to period. museum).

In my opinion, the greatest museological development in Greece during the last decade has been the Open Air Water Power Museum 1.5 km from Dimitsana, in Arcadia. It’s a private museum operated by the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation. It consists of a restoration/reconstruction of 17c mills once owned by a monastery. It really is amazing. So much so, that the American School trip occasionally stops here every Fall. If you find yourself in Stymphalis (and the Canadian excavations, dir. by Hector Williams), you’ll see a new Piraeus Bank museum under construction, the Museum of Traditional Crafts and Environment of Stymphalia.

Finally, for your Peloponnesian journey, I highly recommend a fold-out map published by “ROAD.” You can get it at Eleutheroudakis bookstore in Athens and it’s invaluable. I wish there were a Tabula Imperri Byzantini volume for the region. The National Research Institute in Athens has been working on one, but it sounds like Vienna hesitated publishing it because it stops at 1204 (in a proper nationalistic way). The best maps are produced by the Greek Army's Core of Engineers at 1:50,000. They are available for sale at the Γεωγραφική Υπηρεσία Στρατού (GYS) at Paidion tou Areos in Athens.

Although not in the Peloponnese at all, an exciting new field project to watch out for is the Eastern Boeotia Archaeological Project (EBAP). Brendan Burke, Bryan Burns, and Camilla MacKay have to be the three most delightful people to ever visit with (look for them in Dilessi). Camilla is studying the medieval remains. Although still early to make any conclusions, it seems that the site is low on Byzantine but high in Frankish/Ottoman scatters. EBAP focuses on ancient Eleon and its environ. The study area contains two incredible medieval towers.

Bon voyage to all

No comments:

Blog Archive

Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States