Saturday, July 26, 2014

American Research Institutes

This week I've traveled on from Istanbul to Athens, where I'm using the bibliographic resources of the American School of Classical Studies to research my next book project, which deals with changing attitudes towards the dead in late antiquity. In particular, I'm interested in the increasing presence of the dead in cities (intra-mural burial) and the increasing number of settlements near cemeteries outside of formal, urban boundaries.  Both of these processes signal a departure from the classical model of the city, a break-down of the centuries-old taboo surrounding dead bodies, and the beginning of an urban model similar to what can be found in many modern cities.  However, as I'm finding in my research, the process by which this happens differs significantly various parts of the eastern Mediterranean and western Europe.

More on that in a later post, however.  Today, I want to briefly discuss the role of American overseas research institutes and the ways in which they can benefit scholars.  The American School at Athens, where I'm presently working, has tremendous bibliographic resources, combining the Blegen Library (which contains mostly works dealing with Greek and Roman antiquity), the Gennadius Library (which contains work dealing with Byzantine and Early Modern Greece), and the library of the British School of Archaeology (located next door to the American School).  Today, scholars can access all of these libraries through one digital catalog, cleverly designated Ambrosia.  There are few libraries were scholars can access so much material in a one-block radius.  As many readers will know the American School also runs non-credit educational programs: the year-long "Regular Member" program, geared towards graduate students, and the summer-session programs geared towards graduate students and advanced undergraduates.  More on those programs can be found here. As a former "Regular Member" myself, I can say that there is no comparable educational experience for those who want to learn about archaeology in Greece.  The American School also oversees the excavations in the Athenian Agora and the excavations at Corinth.  The latter is where many Regular Members (including myself) train at the end of their academic year in Athens.  
Dinokratous Street -- Near the American School and on the way from my apartment 

But, to focus on the American School's educational programs and its bibliographic resources misses one of the key functions of the School and similar institutions.  They are great places to meet people, and the American School, in particular, facilitates such meeting through traditions like Tea, served throughout the year (in summer at 5:30 p.m.) in Loring Hall.  (Incidentally, tea can also be had at the British School, of course).  This week I've been able to meet several scholars I would otherwise have been unlikely to meet because we are all working in and around the American School.  Even in an age of sharing information digitally (like this blog) the ability to meet people in real time and in real space working on similar projects is extremely important and the American School is a great place for such meetings.

The American School is not the only place were such meetings happen, however.  While in Istanbul, I was able to visit and briefly use the facilities of the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT).  The ARIT facility is located in an idyllic area of Istanbul (photo below) and its reading rooms are wonderful places to read.  It is, however, on a different scale than the American School in Athens and does not have the same sort of bibliographic resources.  It does, however, have a good collection of books dealing with Byzantine, Ottoman, and Modern Turkey.  Perhaps more importantly, it can function as a meeting place and space for American and foreign scholars.  Also, ARIT can function as an institutional base for American scholars who want to use the resources of other foreign institutes (like the German Archaeological Institute), Turkish academic libraries, and to visit museums and archaeological sites in Turkey. 
Arnavuktöy, near ARIT Istanbul
While I was in Jerusalem, I was able to use the facilities of the Albright Institute, formerly known as the American School of Oriental Research and formerly one of the "sister" institutes of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.  The Albright provides funding for number of scholars who use its residence and research facilities.  Like ARIT and the ASCSA, it can also serve as a base for scholars to use nearby library resources and to visit archaeological sites and museums.  Like the School in Athens, the Albright has "tea" and functions as place for scholars to meet and exchange ideas and information.  Additionally, the Albright can serve more practical and emergency needs, as when it recently helped to facilitate the placement of excavators from Ashkelon into the Megiddo Expedition, after the Ashkelon excavations were suspended due to rocket fire from Gaza.  More on that story here.  In sum, overseas research centers like the Albright, ARIT, and the American School serve a practical and necessary role in facilitating the meeting of scholars,  the exchange of ideas and information, and sometimes assisting scholars, students, and their families with the practicalities of living and working in sometimes unpredictable places.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Theodosian Walls

This week I've been in Istanbul.  The purpose of visiting Istanbul, besides the fact that it's a beautiful city, is to better understand the urban boundaries and the locations of churches and cemeteries of late antique Constantinople.  To that end, I spent one day this week following the famous land walls of Istanbul, largely building the first half of the fifth-century, during the reign of Theodosius II.   The walls are still an impressive sight, as is clear in the image below of the (partly reconstructed) walls and gate located near the middle of the original line of fortifications.  

 The walls run from the Bosporus to the Golden Horn, and thus defended Constantinople from land attacks.  The walls consisted of a lower, outer wall, visible above, backed by taller walls and regularly placed towers.  This system of fortification, combined with Constantinople's sea walls, natural geography, and other defenses, preserved the city from outside invaders until its fall to the Ottomans in 1453.  As can be seen in the photo below, some parts of the outer wall are today graced with nice sidewalks, shady trees, and lawns, giving the area a park-like feeling. 
Other areas outside the walls can be more overgrown with vegetation or near busy roads that made them difficult to walk on the outside.  In such cases, it is generally possible to walk inside the walls, where I found some interesting example of modern re-uses of the walls, such as using them as shady nooks for a cafe, as seen below.  At a few locations, the inside walls permit access to the top, via modern concrete stairs.  The stairs are somewhat crumbly, and have no guard rails.  So, for the acrophobic, the climb is harrowing.  However, the reward at the top is great.
cafe tables in the walls
gate from inside the walls
From the top (also without guardrails) you can look over the Golden Horn and down towards where the wall met the sea.  

There are a number of churches and mosques located near the walls, such as the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora (Kariye Camii).  The name "Chora" indicates that the church was originally in the countryside.  The title is usually explained as coming from the fact that the church is outside the walls of Constantine (4th c.), but is inside the (5th c.) walls of Theosodius.  However, there appears to be no trace of the original 4th c. church.  The earliest phases of the present church date to the 11th c., and the rebuilding and mosaics for which the church is famous date to the early 14th c. 

Chora Church

Mosaic of Mary in Chora Church

 Near where the walls meet the Golden Horn, I came across an Ottoman-20th century cemetery, located just outside the gates, in a manner similar to a classical necropolis.  However, in that there is an Ottoman cemetery near my apartment, well-inside the city walls, exclusively extra-mural burial does not appear to have been an Ottoman practice. 
Ottoman to 20th century cemetery outside of Theodosian Walls. 

To journey back inside the walls, I took a ferry, now part of the Istanbul public transportation system, and in this image, taken from the boat, you can just make out the final towers of the land walls as they near the sea.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

On to Jerusalem

Last week concluded the third week of excavation at Megiddo, at which point the OU students traveled home or to other destinations.  I journeyed south to Jerusalem, via Eldan rental car (below) to pursue research on two projects. One project examines the transition to intra-mural burial in late antiquity and the middle ages.  The other project examines the economics of early Christian pilgrimage between the fourth and seventh centuries.  There is a wealth of material for both projects in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel.  While in Jerusalem, I've made use of the resources at the Albright Institute in East Jerusalem.  Most of my time, however, has been spent tracking down and photographing some of the monuments, walls, and features that define the boundaries and routes of communication of late Roman Jerusalem. 

Our Eldan Rental -- the Nissan "Juke"

The venerable garden sign of the Albright Institute -- formerly known as the American School of Oriental Research   
While in Jerusalem, I've been staying in the West Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot, which was founded in the 1870s and characterized by two and three-story stone buildings, small and winding streets, garden courtyards, and small neighborhood synagogues.  It is also bounded in the east by the famous Mahane Yehuda market.  While Nachlaot is bit of a hike (ca. 30 min.) from where I'm doing most of my research, it is a fascinating -- mostly quiet -- place to stay.  Below are a couple of views: one of my street and the other of an architecturally impressive arch that (at least these days) has the sole purpose of providing access to the second floor.  Why do this with a steel staircase, when you could do it by stone arch?
street in Nachlaot, West Jerusalem
Stone arched stairs in courtyard, Nachlaot
And finally, below are pictures of a few of things I've been looking at this week for my research (as well as to gather teaching photos).
late Roman/Byzantine Cardo Maximus in Old City, Jerusalem
Herodian street next to western wall of Temple Mount, below Robinson's Arch
Entering Old City from the Damascus Gate -- close to the route of the Roman Cardo

Remains of the "3rd Wall" in East Jerusalem