Beyond Churches: Energetics and Economies of Construction in the Byzantine World

Beyond Churches: Energetics and Economies of Construction in the Byzantine World

By Jordan Pickett

Byzantine Archaeology in Method and Theory, eds. W. Caraher and K. Kourelis (Cambridge, 2012)

Introduction: The last forty years have witnessed a shift in the archaeology of Byzantine architecture from art-historically formal, descriptive, often evolutionary or diffusionary accounts of buildings and building types, to excavations and landscape surveys under the influence of Processualist paradigms, the latter typically acting to generate data for the plethora of interpretive approaches to architecture adopted by Byzantinists today. These approaches have been shaped by the historical proximity of Byzantine Studies to the disciplines of philology and art history, and at their most innovative these approaches answer to debates within those disciplines, namely the critiques of post-Structuralism: recent efforts include scholarly introspections on the practice of Byzantine archaeology and its historical intersections with nationalism, ethnicity and ideology; cognitive and symbolic assessments of the Byzantine built environment, sociological studies of building patronage, assessments of Byzantine architecture in cultural representation, neo-Marxist accounts of Byzantine urbanism, and so forth. An increased interest in the social lives of Byzantine architecture, in the life-histories visible in building fabrics and in the ways architecture negotiated social relationships between makers, users, and structure is also discernable. Together, such studies offer a meaningful dialogue with many of the concerns of Postprocessual archaeology as outlined by Matthew Johnson and Bruce Trigger.

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