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ARA8116 : The Archaeology of Byzantium and its Neighbours

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Mark Jackson
  • Lecturer: Dr Sophie Moore
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The early medieval period saw a radical realignment in the economic, social and political structures of Europe, the Mediterranean and western Asia which remain fundamental for understanding many of the tensions in the modern world. Byzantium was a unique state located between the new, dynamic Islamic world and the early medieval kingdoms of continental Europe. The course examines the material culture and structures of Byzantium and its neighbours from the beginning of Justinian’s reign in the 6th century to AD 850. The study will begin by considering Justinian’s empire and in particular by reviewing the recent debate on the end of urbanism in late antiquity. We will consider the debates which have been put forward for the end of Antiquity in both the east and the west but we will focus on urbanism in the Eastern provinces. We will look at the rise of Islam and consider the impact the Arab invasions had on the Byzantine world as well as on religion and transport in the eastern Mediterranean. Orthodox Christianity was crucial for the survival of the Byzantine state and the crisis concerning the worship of religious images known as Iconoclasm, raises issues relevant for understanding the significance of images and belief in the medieval and the modern worlds. Other themes include methodological problems in the use of historical and archaeological sources and the contested nature of many medieval buildings in the recent past because of their significance for different people today.

The aim of this module is to understand the transformation of the Classical world and the emergence of new and diverse material cultures, institutions and ideologies in the Byzantine Empire and its neighbours, including the Islamic world as well as to consider how these buildings and places continue to be places of significance and contention in contemporary society.

Outline Of Syllabus

The course examines the material culture and structures of Byzantium and its neighbours from late
antiquity to the middle Byzantine period. Topics to be included will usually include:
The strategic geography of the Near East;
Byzantine worldviews;
Hagiography and archaeology;
Byzantine magic and superstition;
Ethnography of modern traditional rural settlement and households;
Byzantine rural settlement and households;
Byzantine cities: Early medieval Constantinople;
Byzantine cities in Anatolia, Syria and Jordan;
The transition of urban life and rural settlement in Asia Minor and Syria;
Anatolia and the Arab invasions;
Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture, burial and decoration;
The period of Iconoclasm;
Transport and trade in the eastern Mediterranean;
The rise of Islam; and the development of early Islamic architecture and decoration;
Pilgrimage in Byzantium and Islam;
Specific themes include methodological problems in the use of historical and archaeological sources;
Byzantine and early Islamic Archaeology and colonialism;
The management and monitoring of endangered heritage (e.g. by UNESCO);
Contested religious and secular space and intentional destruction or appropriation of Byzantine and early Islamic buildings in recent times.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:002 lecture per week
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion651:0065:00Assessment preparation (2 pieces of Summative assessment and 1 piece of formative - split as needed)
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading331:0033:003 hours reading per week (module reading list)
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities221:0022:002 hours per workshop
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops111:0011:00Workshops.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study471:0047:00General consolidation activities
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
ARA3016The Archaeology of Byzantium and its Neighbours
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will provide a historical overview and introduce major written sources, material culture and monuments of Byzantine and Islamic art and archaeology. Lectures will also present subject-specific information relating especially to the ways in which sources can be interpreted and will highlight critically ways that sources have been misinterpreted in the past. Lecture materials will direct students to reading to explore ideas and concepts further. Workshops will build students' research and communication skills as well as their personal confidence and will prepare students for the research project. Structured guided research, assessments and reading together with independent learning will be needed by students to embed and to build on information from lectures; this will be evaluated in the assignments. This independent work will enable students to become familiar with the wide range of visual and structural evidence and its critical interpretation.

In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to present recorded materials asynchronously and retain timetabled slots for live discussion of these materials.

In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to hold live workshop discussions online and retain timetabled slots.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M301000-word book review
Research paper1A70Research assignment based on a research question for a topic covered in the module (2500 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1MOne 10-minute formative oral presentation will be given by each of the students as a video recording in advance of the workshops.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

1) The book review will enable the students consider critically, and in depth, a book published within the last ten years in Byzantine Archaeology. The writing of the book review should follow the example of published reviews by professional scholars. This assignment will enable students to develop a complex and specialised area of knowledge and skills, by employing advanced skills to undertake a professional activity. This will be facilitated by a session looking at published book reviews and an online discussion board in Canvas.

2) The longer research assignment will build on the knowledge and feedback that students have gained through giving a presentation in class. Students will conduct research into a complex and specialised area of knowledge and skills covered by the module. They should employ advanced skills to conduct research according to a research question which must be agreed in advance with the module leader. This will be facilitated by discussion with the module leader before submission at the end of the semester.

Formative Workshop
Workshops give students the opportunity for independent study and for team working. All students should prepare by reading in advance of all workshops. Each student will be expected to jointly lead a workshop by giving a group presentation as a recorded video during the semester for their formative assessment. Other students will give feedback on others' presentations so students must ensure they have uploaded the video by the Friday in advance of the class. These formative presentations will enable all students to reflect on the content and skills that make effective presentations. Research for the presentations will enable students to investigate their topics in good time for the essay submission.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All of the summative assessments for this module will be submitted and marked online.

This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.

Reading Lists