Wednesday, August 6, 2014
New Book: Constantinople: Archaeology of a Byzantine Megapolis
This book is in essence described by its subtitle: it is the final report on a rescue survey of Byzantine remains in the western areas of the historic peninsula of Istanbul. It is impossible to go far off the beaten tourist track in old Istanbul without eventually coming across stray pieces of Byzantine stonework or bulldozed buildings that reveal the stumps of Byzantine brick structures. It is difficult for anyone with any attachment to Byzantium not feel the urge to become an archaeological vigilante, ever watchful for the next bulldozed site. In the mid 1990s, Ken Dark set himself the admirable task of prospecting all the previously unknown Byzantine surface remains that were either becoming exposed by construction work, or reported hidden behind the facades of twentieth-century buildings. He enlisted the help of a local art historian, Ferudun Özgümüş. This book is the fruit of their collaboration from 1998 to 2004, though much of it was anticipated in previous publications, and the collaboration generated independent surveys by Dr Özgümüş whose results are only partially summarised here. Dr. Dark claims entire responsibility for the text and the views expressed therein. Chapter 1 rapidly surveys the physical geography of the Byzantine city, and chronicles in some detail its archaeological investigation up to 2012. Chapter 2 sets out the history, organisation and methods of the reported project. It explains the constraints that led to the choice of study area—the space between the Theodosian Land Walls and the Atatürk Boulevard—and the obstacles in the way of the systematic identification and recording of reported remains. Chapter 3, ‘The Southern Part of the Study Area’, catalogues the finds of worked stone and Byzantine brick substructures in the area between the Adnan Menderes Boulevard (formerly Vatan Caddesi) and the Marmara coast as far east as the Yenikapı excavation site; this is briefly discussed, but most of the material in the chapter comes from the western part of the area. By contrast, the coverage of Chapter 4, ‘The Northern Part of the Study Area’, is more evenly spread between the area within the (hypothetical) line of the first, Constantinian wall, and the area enclosed by this and the Theodosian Wall. To the east of the former, it includes some major, previously undocumented structures in the area of the Column of Marcian, as well as minor finds in the vicinity of well-known Byzantine monuments (the Lips and Pantokrator monasteries). West of the former Constantinian wall, the sites investigated were at the Mihrimah Camii, around the Chora monastery (Kariye Museum), and near the cistern of Aetius, where the material is discussed in connection with the search for the site of the Petra monastery. Chapter 5 is devoted to the site of the Blachernae Palace in the modern neighbourhood of Ayvansaray. Chapter 6, ‘The Church of the Holy Apostles’, is devoted mainly to arguing that the strips of limestone wall beneath the present structure of the Fatih Camii belong to the Byzantine church that was demolished to make way for the mosque in the fifteenth century. Chapter 7, the conclusion, bears the title of the book as a whole, and “addresses some of the wider implications of the data from this project for understanding Byzantine Constantinople”(p.97). There are three Appendices: 1, ‘The first phase of construction at Fatih Camii’; 2, ‘The church of Zoodochos Pege’; 3, ‘The 2000 “Fener-Ayakapı – Cibali – Unkapanı” Survey (summary of one of the independent surveys conducted by Ferudun Özgümüş). There follow a ‘Catalogue of Material of Roman or Byzantine Data Recorded in the Study Area during the Project’s Work in 1998-1999 and 2001-2004’, a series of 14 area maps (drawn by Nigel Westbrook), a 25-page bibliography, and an index. The text is illustrated throughout by 104 black and white photographs and plans (including the area maps) and there are 41 colour plates between chapters 6 and 7.
Click here for the rest of the review