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Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 24.

1 (2011) 111 -137

ISSN (Print)
ISSN (Online) 1743-1700

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes of Naxos

Jim Crow', Sam Turner^ and Athanasios K. Vionis^
' School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, Doorway 4, Teviot Place, Edinburgh,
^ School of Historical Studies, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NEl 7RU, UK
Archaeological Research Unit, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Cyprus, P.O. Box
20537, 1678 Nicosia, Cyprus

Historic Landscape Characterization (HLC) is a methodology for historic landscape studies pioneered in
Britain. Using satellite imagery and RAF archival air photographs, Naxos provides an excellent pilot study to
explore the application of this technique to the historic landscapes of the eastern Mediterranean. Our research
identifies a number of discrete HLC types and considers their developmentfrom the Byzantine period to modern times. In addition it has been possible to tise these data to set Naxos' rich corpus of Byzantine churches in
their landscape context, providing amove textured account of rural life in medieval and post-medieval times.
Keywords: Historic Landscape Characterization (HLC), GIS, Aegean, Naxos, Byzantine, field systems,



attention to post-antique and classical/prehis.

r i ' T i

c r^

' - L -

Byrons evocation oi the Isles or Greece in his

epic poem Don fuan contrasted their plight
under Ottoman oppression with the glories of
an ancient Hellenic past. This perspective, partly
derived from classical studies, determined how
the landscapes of the Aegean and western Turkey were studied into the later 20th century: as
the settings for historical events rather than as a
source for the lives and activities of past societies,
The advent ofintensive survey in the Mediterranean, however, has meant that the post-classical
periods have finally become a field of interest
in their own right, and a significant number of
survey projects in Greece alone have paid equal
The FundforMediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

toric landscapes.'

^^^ research we report here was designed to
^'^P^^'^ent with a relatively new kind of land''^^P^ archaeology applied for the first time in
'^^ ^^'^''' Mediterranean. Historic Landscape
Characterization (HLC) is a method for mapP'"g ^^^ ^""re landscape with reference to its
historic development. Using Geographical Information Systems (GIS), we attempt to present
our interpretations of the historic landscape
based on spatial datasets (principally satellite
imagery, historic air photos and maps), and to
integrate these with data from historical and
archaeological studies.
doi: 1 0 . 1 5 5 8 / j m e a . v 2 4 i L l 11


Crow et al.

In eontrast to reeent and eontemporary field

survey praetiee, whieh tends to foeus on the
loeation and seale of settlements and struetures,
HLC takes a broader perspeetive that ensures
the integration of the remains of farmsteads,
shrines and villages as part of the pattern of
fields, pastures and mountains. The value of
international and interregional studies has been
highlighted by reeent work (e.g. Hordern and
Purcell 2000), and for our project we chose to
analyse two contrasting Mediterranean landseapes: the Aegean island of Naxos (Greeee),
and the eountry around the small town of Silivri in eastern Thraee (Trakya, Turkey) (Crow
and Turner 2009). In this artiele we outline the
eharaeterization method and some of the results
from our pilot study on Naxos.

Historic Landscape Characterization (HLC)

HLC was originally developed in the 1990s
by arehaeologists in Britain who realized that
although individual monuments might be well
proteeted, the broader historie landseape was
ofi;en ignored (Herring 1998: 7-8). HLC is a
generalizing GIS-based teehnique that seeks
to present a broad-brush characterization of
an area's historic landscape. As such, it does
not normally provide a detailed description,
although such detail can be added to the GIS
from other sourees to enrieh the database further (e.g. in field archaeological surveys: Turner
2007;Foardrt^/. 2005).
HLC maps differ from traditional methods
of storing and presenting reeords about historie
landseapes in several important ways, although
like them HLCs are used for both landseape
management and researeh (Turner 2006a). Sueh
'traditional methods' inelude arehaeologieal
databases or inventories of sites and monuments
(e.g. the UK's eounty-based Historie Environment RecordsHERs). In Turkey the eurrent
TAY projeet provides an overview of regional
and period inventories available on the web
( Generally speak The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeoiogy/Fquinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

ing, archaeological databases provide lists of

arehaeologieal sites together with relevant information-loeation, period, extent, date identified
and so on. Some of these databases are now very
sophistieated: for example, many UK HERs are
web-based and available in whole or in part to
interested members of the publie (e.g. Somerset HER; Royal Commission on the Aneient
and Historical Monuments of Scotland's CANMORE database). As inventories of sites they are
crucial tools for research, landscape management
and planning, partieularly where the preservation and enhaneement of individual sites and
monuments is eoneerned.
There are, however, some signifieant problems
with these databases. First, the information they
eontain about site loeation is usually limited to
a dot or a line on a map, with little information
about the surrounding landseape. Seeondly, sueh
databases ean never reeord everything of historic
interest in any given locality. The character of
places does not just come from assoeiations with
famous or important sites, but might just as well
arise from the special combination of features in
a place: the houses, gardens, field walls, lanes,
trees and so on that make up the landseapes we
see. It takes a great deal of time to reeord all these
features even for a single village, let alone a whole
HLC Methodology
Historie Landseape Characterization provides
one way to help deal with these problems. Unlike
an archaeological inventory, HLC does not map
individual arehaeologieal features. Instead, it
groups together features like field boundaries,
lanes and farms that are linked by their historieal
development and then maps them as areas. To
do this, the HLC researeher needs to understand
how patterns in the landseape reflect its historical
development, and how the physical features that
make up the landscape relate to one another. So,
like all landscape arehaeology, HLC mapping
involves a partly subjeetive proeess of interpretation that is informed by the physieal landseape.

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes ofNaxos


HLC projects use mapping techniques that

generalize the features in a given area, based on
certain characteristics. The principal advantages
of HLC are that it is quick and flexible, provides
total coverage, and is easy to integrate with other
datasets using CIS. Similar techniques have
been used in other disciplines for many years,
for example in geology to show soil types, or in
ecology to map habitats. HLC projects recognize
that all landscapes are 'cultural': they all have
historical significance resulting from people's
activities and perceptions. Peter Herring, who
developed the HLC methodology in Cornwall
(UK), described the basis of the HLC method as

wood pasture, and so on. Likely dates of origin

are often added where these can be interpreted
from the available data. Depending on their
research aims, other projects might be more
interested in defining general land-use areas in
historic landscapes, mapping simpler categories like 'agricultural land', 'rough ground' or
'woodland'. Classifications developed by previous landscape studies are likely to be useful and
influential when deciding how to define HLC
character types, but there is not necessarily a set
of pre-existing, 'correct' interpretations of the
landscape that stands ready to be used in making
HLCs. Instead, it is important to consider eacb
new project's particular research questions when
devising its HLC methodology.

Closer examination [of the landscape] reveals

that particular groupings and patterns of components which recur throughout the county
can be seen to have been determined by
similar histories. CornwaH's historic landscape
can, therefore, be characterised, mapped and
described, using a finite number of categories or types of 'historic landscape character'
(Herring 1998: 11).

The same geographical area can be characterized in different ways by different users. For
example, two simple characterizations of parts
of Cornwall (UK) used rather diflferent HLC
types (Table 1). The first characterization was
designed to be used by archaeologists in largescale planning and landscape management work.
It defined 18 HLC types that were mapped
at a scale of 1:50,000 using modern maps as
the principal source (Herring 1998). A second
project using HLC produced an outline map of
medieval land-use in order to help understand
the location of medieval landscapes and setdements. It used just four HLC types to map parts
of the same area, but characterized them at a scale
of 1:10,000 based on historic estate maps. Tithe
Award maps and Ordnance Survey maps (Turner
2006b). It is important to remember that HLCs
are designed in relation to specific projects as well
as specific places. Existing HLCs may not necessarily be suitable for addressing the questions or
applications pursued by later researcbers.

In practice, this means that the present-day landscape is examined and characterized into 'HLC
types'. These types are classified in advance of
mapping by the researcher and tailored to the
region and specific project. HLC is a flexible
method: in different regions, different types are
appropriate because of differing landscape histories (see e.g. Dingwall and Caffney 2007 for
a typical example). Different types might also
be defined by the researcher if the characterization has been designed to be used at a larger or
smaller scale. HLC 'types' commonly relate to
the form of features, like field boundaries and
the historic processes that created them.
The exact nature of the HLC types defined
for any given project will vary depending on the
goals of the project in question. For example,
a project particularly interested in analysing
agricultural practices in a particular landscape
might choose to define several different types
relating to fields: arable fields, pasture, meadow.
The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Ptiblishing Ltd., 2011

As with all archaeological work, HLC raises

methodological issues (for recent criticisms, see
papers in Landscapes 8.2 [2007]). One of these
is the difficulty of consistently placing areas in
the 'correct' categories. Even when a project is
undertaken by a single researcher, it is possible for
areas with similar historic characteristics to end
up mapped as different types. This may just be


Crow et al.

Table 1.

Different character types used by two HLG projects in Gornwall, UK

HLC character types: Herring 1998

Rough ground
Prehistoric enclosures
Medieval enclosures
Post-medieval enclosures
Modern enclosures
Ancient woodland
Plantations and scrub woodland
Settlement (historic)
Settlement (modern)
Industrial (relict)
Industrial (active)
Water (reservoirs, etc)
Water (natural bodies)

HLC character types: Turner 2006b

Medieval enclosures
Ancient woodland
Rough ground

the result of error, but sometimes it is difficult to

decide in which type a given block of landscape
belongs. One way to manage this problem is to
base the project's character types on a wide range
of well-researched case-studies. Investigating a
range of case studies from the overall project area
in as much detail as the available evidence will
permit is nearly always one of the first steps in the
process of defining HLC types. The interpretations produced are then used to provide analogies
for the rest of the study area. For example, for the
purposes of our Naxos project we have consulted
all the available historical and archaeological
studies relating to the island's landscape history
and compared them to examples from neighbouring regions. In some parts of our project
area, we have benefited from the results of recent
field survey by the 2nd Ephorate of Byzantine
Antiquities (Vionis 2011b), for example around
the churches of Agios Isidoros near Rachi and
Agia Kyriaki Kalonis. Owing to the relative
paucity of previous work, we also decided to
combine these data with a series of retrogressive
analyses to explain how we defined our HLC
types before beginning our HLC mapping.
T h e Eund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd.. 2011

Retrogressive analysis is a technique for unravelling the physical and chronological relationships between different elements in the historic
landscape (e.g. roads, field boundaries). Historic
landscapes and the physical features in them are
continually subject to forces of change, whether
natural or man-made. Change is therefore
widely recognized as a key characteristic of landscape (CoE 2000; Turner and Fairclough 2007:
121-2). Most landscapes contain features from
many different periods, and the relationships
between these features can be analysed to cast
light on the changes and processes that created
them. Sometimes these changes can be dated
absolutely, most often where there is independent archaeological or documentary evidence
(e.g. a sequence of maps or air photographs).
Otherwise it is often possible only to establish
a relative chronology. A classic example of this
method is Williamson's (1987; 1998) study
of the 'Scole-Dickleburgh' field system on the
boundary of Norfolk and Suffolk in England.
He argued that the basic framework of the field
system was created in the late Iron Age or earlier
since it appears to be cut through and overlain
by a Roman road.

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes of Naxos

Similar methods have been used elsewhere
in northern Europe to examine field systems,
for example on the coastal wetlands of south
Wales (Rippon 2004: 79-99), in western France
(Watteaux 2005) and in the former open fields
of Gambridgeshire (Oosthuizen 2006). By
unpacking the relationships between features
and working from the most recent backwards,
it is sometimes possible to reveal the earlier
frameworks of historic features that lie within
the fabric of the present cultural landscape. This
method of working back can also help identify
significant periods and processes of change,
such as episodes of enclosure. These processes
of change can then be taken into account when
HLG character types are defined. Sometimes, as
in the Naxos project, the database accompanying the HLG is designed to contain data about
both present and earlier landscape types. This
allows the researcher to model landscape change
over time by presenting a sequence of data from
different periods in the GIS.
GIS systems are more flexible than printed
maps, because many pieces of information can
be presented in relation to each feature or area.
In our HLG, a database linked to a GIS allows
a range of attributes to be held fot each individual block of each character type. This means
the user can build up a coherent picture of the
historical development of the landscape. It also
helps us to map how the landscape character of
our study area has changed over time. An example is provided by the fields and terraces in the
area around Aria. Here (as almost everywhere
on Naxos) a simple retrogressive analysis shows,
first, that very few new features have been created
in the landscape between 1943 and 2006 (the
dates of out two main sources), confirming that
virtually all the existing features date to before
World War II. Secondly, it reveals that where
there is a stratigraphie relationship between field
walls and braided terrace systems: field walls are
virtually always later than the terraces. Some
individual terraces may butt up against walls (i.e.
some terraces are later than some walls), but that
The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2011


just shows that the terrace systems themselves

continued to be used and developed after the
walls were built. By interpreting these relationships in the data collected for the HLG, we can
present a sequence of HLG types that shows how
the landscape has changed over time. In places
around Aria, the terraced fields have gone out of
use for arable agricultureeither before or since
1943. This information can also be added to
the HLG, providing another 'layer' of change in
the historic landscape. This kind of analysis has
helped us to refine our HLG character types and
to provide increased chronological definition for
our characterizations.
One problem scholars have identified with
these methods is equifinality, where similar processes at different times lead to similar physical
characteristics in the present (Williamson 2007:
69). It is hard to know whether all the braided
terrace systems on Naxos have equally ancient
origins (though we do know they all pre-date
the era when stone walls were built, as discussed
below). This difficulty was also recognized in
histotical geographers' critiques of modern geography in the 1960s and 70s (Widgren 2004:
456-57). Detailed engagement with specific case
studies using as many data sources as are available seems the best solution for such problems
(Widgren 2004: 462-63; Bolos 2010: 379).
Because HLG is a flexible method, it can be
adapted to suit different places and include a
range of differing perspectives. Since the data
are held in a GIS, it is easy to add data or change
the information linked to each unit. New interpretations or new data might be added to HLGs
that have already been 'completed' (Bolos 2010:
404-407). HLG is not a monolithic or prescriptive approach, and different workers might
choose to characterize the same area in different
ways, in tesponse to different research questions
(Turner 2006a; 2006b; Foard et al. 2005).
Naxos: Historical Introduction
The island of Naxos has been celebrated since
antiquity for its fertility and varied landscapes.


Crow et al.

The largest island amongst the archipelago of

the Cyclades (429 sq km), it is set apart by its
high mountains and extensive olive groves (Lock
1995: 242). In the late 17th century the population was estimated at 6000, with one main
town at Naxia clustered around the Frankish
castle of Kastro (Slot 1982: 31), today Chora,
itself located on the site of the main classical
city. Distant from Constantinople and with no
significant Byzantine monasteries, there are no
early typika or monastic foundation charters to
inform our knowledge of the pre-Venetian landholdings. For the Frankish period from 1207
onwards, the sources are more specific, although
even these were largely compiled several centuries after the initial conquest (Slot 1991: 197).
Earlier chronicle sources are very limited,
although most general accounts of the Byzantine
Aegean stress the importance of the disruption
created by the presence of an Arab fleet and
raiders from the mid-7th century. The first of
these raids accompanied the siege of Constantinople in 671-672 and the raiders are said to
have wintered regularly in the archipelago over
the next seven years (Pryor and Jeffreys 2006:
26). By 719, after the successful defence of the
city in a second siege, the new naval force of the
Kibyrrhaiotai theme (a military command) was
based in southern Asia Minor, and the main military concerns of empire over the next century
were in the Balkans and Asia Minor. The islands
only became threatened by the operations of
the Arab fleet after 824-827 when the island of
Crete was captured by the Andals Arabs and a
new base was established at Chandax (modern
Heraklion) (Pryor and Jeffreys 2006: 47).
During the reconquest of Crete by Nicephoras
Phocas, the middle Byzantine historian Leo the
Deacon (Book 1: 6) reported that the emperor
exhorted his men with the words: 'Isn't it true
that almost all our coastline is uninhabited as a
result of their rapine. Aren't most of the islands
deserted because of their raids?' (Talbot and Sullivan 2005: 12). In practice the impact of their
raids on specific islands is difficult to estimate.
The Ftind for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

although it is reported that Naxos was forced to

pay tribute to Arab pirates (Ahrweiler 1966: 44,
n. 6). The major inland castle of Apalirou probably dates from the 8th century, although this
fortress appears to be more than just a reflige,
with extensive traces of settlement around the
flanks of the upper circuit.
It is easy to exaggerate the negative impact
throughout the Cyclades of the Arab presence in
Crete, although one recent study based on the
archaeological evidence from Naxos (as well as
from other sites in Aegean Greece and southwest
Asia Minor) suggests continuing settlement in
places along the coast with economic links to
the capital (Vionis 2009a; 2011a; see Gregory
2006 for a review of evidence from Kythera).
The impact of sea-borne raiding on coastal settlement, however, remains a constant trope in
settlement history in the islands up to the 19th
century. Following the recapture of Crete by
Nicephoros Phocas in 960-961, the Aegean was
brougbt under Byzantine control and during
these campaigns Naxos had an important role
as a watering point for the imperial fleet (Pryor
and Jeffreys 2006: 264 nn. 335, 371). Although
there is no significant natural harbour on the
island, the sandy beaches of the southwest coast
could have provided havens for a fleet of galleys.
Throughout the Byzantine Empire from the
9th century onwards there is evidence for the
expansion of settlements and agricultural lands
(Lefort 2002: 269). Increasing stability and
wealth may be reflected in the significant number
of painted churches dating to the middle Byzantine period (Mastoropoulos n.d.). Economic historians have observed a general trend, namely the
increase throughout this period of large estates
at the expense of small holders, as documented
elsewhere in the Aegean islands (Lefort 2002:
After the loss of Constantinople to the Venetians and their Frankish allies, the island came
under the rule of various Frankish lords, especially
the Sanudi who from 1207 used the island as the
base for the Duchy of the Archipelago (Lock

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes of Naxos

1995: 147-49). It was only from 1418, however,
that the duehy beeame a vassal of the Venetian
republie, as there were inereasing eoneerns about
the Turkish eonquests throughout Greeee and
the Aegean eoast lands. Chora became the new
capital of the island and it seems likely that the
new Catholic Venetian lords replaeed the former
Byzantine estate holders. As with mueh of Frankish Greeee, a new feudal strueture was imposed
that persisted beyond the end of Venetian rule
in 1566 (Slot 1991). The population remained
predominantly Orthodox and it is estimated
that, unlike other Cyeladie islands, Latins only
represented 5% of the total (Slot 1982: 32). Slot
(1991: 201-204) has suggested that the Catholie
landowners were eoneentrated in Chora with
estates elose by in the western parts of the island.
The Ottoman conquest of the islands began in
1537, although Naxos did not come under direct
rule before 1579. In the sueeeeding centuries the
Aegean islands beeame the foeus for eontinuing
eonfliets between the Ottomans and Venetians,
restilting in major wars and loeal piracy with
potential impact on both settlement and land-use
(Slot 1982: esp. 73-80 for the raids of Barbarossa
in 1537-1538; Raekham and Moody 1996: 197200). The detailed registers that survive in the
arehives of Veniee, Istanbul and on the islands
themselves ensure a rieher historical doeumentation than is available from our comparative study
area in Thrace, resulting in a number of important studies (Slot 1982; Kasdagli 1999). From a
historieal perspeetive the insular landseape can be
expeeted to reveal greater dmographie continuity with a potential time-depth extending back
over a millennium.

Naxos: A Pilot Historic Landscape Characterization

Whilst the method and database we used were
modelled on a reeent HLC projeet in the UK,
for our pilot Naxos HLC we adapted them significantly to suit the island's historie landseape
and the available data sourees (Turner 2007).
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We chose ESRI's ArcGIS 9.1 for the mapping,

and the data relating to eaeh individual bloek
of a speeifie landseape character type (known
as a 'polygon', or a 'geometry') were recorded
and stored using a Microsoft Access database
(the data we ereated are available to download
via the UK's Arehaeology Data Serviee website: http : //ads. ahds. ae. uk/eatalogue/resourees.
Two principal sources were used to inform
our eharaeterization:
1. IKONOS 1 m blaek and white and 4 m
multispeetral satellite data supplied by
European Spaee Imaging LLC, Munieh.
2. Historie air photography. This eomprised
Royal Air Foree (RAF) air photos taken
during sorties in 1943. Most of the study
area was eovered. The photographs were
seanned and supplied by the Keele University Air Photo Unit (this eolleetion, TARA,
has sinee moved into the eare of the Royal
Commission on the Aneient and Historie
Monuments of Scotland [RCAHMS] in
The methods used for georeferencing the imagery
and photography are outlined on our projeet
Where relevant, other data sourees were also
used ineluding digital versions of twentietheentury 1:50,000 Russian military maps. During the period we undertook the pilot mapping
(June-August 2007), Google Earth was providing high-resolution imagery for about half of
our study area. This proved useful for elarifying
details visible on some of our satellite imagery.
We did not use the 1:5000 maps of the Hellenie
Military Geographieal Serviee for this projeet,
even though they eould have been integrated as
another souree, as they have been in some reeent
arehaeologieal projeets (Bevan et al. 2003). This
was not only beeause digital versions were not
available to us, but also beeause these maps do
not inelude all the neeessary or relevant features,
partieularly terraees.


Crow et al.

The historie landscape of Naxos is extremely

intricate, with many small units inter-digitated
in complex patterns. The HLC mapping was
therefore undertaken at a detailed scale, usually at around 1:3500 (the characterization is
designed to be used at 1:10,000 or smaller).
The smallest individual polygons mapped were
originally intended to be 1 ha (100 x 100 m),
but in fact the grain of the landscape meant that
smaller polygons were commonly included. The
whole area included in each polygon should be
composed of the same historic character type
and should have shared the same historic character type (or the same sequence of different
types) throughout its history. Of course, there
are sometimes very small patches of particular
land-use types that have not been included in
the database. The characterization is intended
to be a broad-brush exercise that can be executed relatively rapidly (Figure 1, p. 121).
Since this was a pilot project designed to test
the applicability of HLC in Mediterranean contexts, the number of different HLC types was
kept to a minimum in the hope that the database would be more user-friendly. At the most
basic level, the data can be displayed in the CIS
to show where very simple categories of landuse lie: fields, settlements, rough ground and so
on. Because we can combine different variables
to create maps using CIS, it is possible to draw
on all the data recorded in the database to create
more complex maps for a range of purposes. For
example, one of the principles of HLC is that it
recognizes the dynamic quality of landscapes.
Landscapes have always changed, and they will
continue to do so through human action and
natural processes. Not all landscapes, however,
change at the same speed or in the same ways.
Our characterizations are designed to allow a
sequence of character types to be recorded for
each polygon, with interpretations of present and
(where possible) past historic landscape character
included in the database. First, the present-day
character type was recorded based on the evidence from the IKONOS imagery. Second, an
T h e Fund for Meditertanean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

interpretation of earlier phases of landscape character was made using all the available sources.
This means that for much of our study area we
can model earlier patterns of land-use and (at a
fairly simple level) try to trace which landscapes
have remained most stable and which have
changed fastest. We can also see how earlier uses
of the land have affected later patterns.
Naxos HLC Types
Our starting point for this study is the 'historic
landscape'. Archaeologists' definition of this
term is deliberately broad. We include not only
all the physical components of today's landscapefor example, walls, lanes, trees, hedges,
ruins, houses and other buildingsbut also the
earthworks or field remains of long-deserted
sites. Using a range of archaeological techniques,
we include barely visible or even wholly buried
features into our analyses, like the soil-marks or
crop-marks left by ancient setdements, or earlier
landscapes concealed beneath recent alluvial
deposits. Historical and ethnographic records
also allow the cultural perceptions and associations of places to be valued as part of the historic
landscape: battlefields or sacred sites may leave
few physical traces but an awareness of them
may further influence the way we understand
and value the historic landscape.
Although historical archaeology has begun to
emerge as a distinct field of study in the Aegean
only in the last couple of decades, it is clear
that historic landscapes are rich and varied here
(Vionis 2011a). Throughout the region, postmedieval settlements and medieval churches nestle amongst fields and terraces of largely uncertain
antiquity. Networks of kalderimia (footpaths or
tracks) snake amongst the ancient olives, lending
a timeless atmosphere to the region's small-scale
agricultural scene. In pursuit of these landscapes'
ancient forerunners, pioneering archaeological
fieldwork has included the development of surface survey methods, which have revolutionized
how we understand the prehistoric and classical
worlds (Renfrew and Wagstaflf 1982; Cherry et

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes of Naxos

al 1991; Mee and Forbes 1997). Such projects
have also begun to improve our knowledge of
how the historic landscape developed in more
recent periods (Gregory 2010). Examples include
research in Boeotia, on Methana, in the Korinthia and on Kea, where interdisciplinary and
ethnographic studies have shown how work on
the medieval and post-medieval countryside can
produce exciting results (Davis 1991; Whitelaw
1991; Bindiff 2000; Forbes 2007; Caraher et
al 2006; Tartaron et al 2006). Elsewhere in
Greece scholars have also begun to use documentary sources profitably in combination with the
results of field survey (see e.g. Zarinebaf et al
2005; papers in Davies and Davis 2007; Given
and Hadjianastasis 2010).
One result of recent work is the realization
that the landscapes of different regions and individual islands have often developed along quite
distinct trajectories. The debate over agricultural
terraces and their dates serves well to highlight
this point. We use it in this section as an example of this regional variation, although other
topics could have served as well. It shows that
individual projects need to consider carefully the
specific histories of landscapes they are working
with when they are defining HLC types. Simply
applying typologies developed elsewhereeven
on areas nearbyis unlikely to prove satisfactory
on its own.
The HLC types we have used to map our
Naxos study area for this project are shown in
Table 2. The following section describes the
rationale behind our choices for some of the
most widespread character types in our HLC,
enclosures and terraces (other types are available via our website,
ptojects/eastmed_landscape/). The HLC types
do not generally refer to the types of crop under
cultivation, but instead to the form of the fields
in which they are grown. It is hard to identify
crops reliably from satellite imagery or air photographs, and intercropping or poly-cropping (the
custom of planting more than one crop in the
same field) is historically common on Naxos.
The Eund for Meditenanean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2011


Fnclosures (see Table 2)

The farming landscape of Naxos is an enclosed
landscape. Although traditional boundaries are
built from dry-stone walls, in places mortared

Table 2.

Naxos HLG types

Enclosures (modern)
Enclosures (post-medieval)
Enclosures (post-medieval) based on Fields (medieval)
Enclosures (post-medieval) based on Braided terraces
Enclosures (post-medieval) based on Step terraces straight/contour (post-medieval)
Olives (modern)
Olives (post-medieval)
Horticulture (modern/post-medieval)

Braided terraces (medieval)

Gheck-dams (medieval/post-medieval/modern)
Step terraces - contour (modern/post-medieval)
Step terraces - straight (modern/post-medieval)
Terraced fields (modern/post-medieval)
False terraces (modern)
Rough ground
Rough ground (post-medieval/medieval)
Rough ground (modern/post-medieval) with Enclosures
Rough ground (modern/post-medieval) with Enclosures
(post-medieval) based on Braided terraces (medieval)
Rough ground (modern/post-medieval) based on Braided
terraces (medieval)
Rough ground (modern/post-medieval) with Terraces
[other types]
Woodland (modern/post-medieval)
Outcrop, scree, cliff
Settlement (modern/post-medieval/medieval)
Villas (modern)
Recreation (modern)
Industrial (modern)
Quarry (modern/post-medieval)


Crow et al.

walls, fences, hedges and banks are also used

(Figure 2). Virtually all the fields are enclosed,
and much of the rough grazing ground is
divided up by long pasture boundaries. How
long the landscape hete has been an enclosed
one is not totally clear. Whilst some boundaries
appear to be very ancientparticularly the
outer boundaries of field systems, the majority probably date to the post-medieval period.
Comparing the air photographs taken in the
1940s by the RAF and the modern IKONOS
satellite imagery, it is clear that the enclosure
pattern visible today was wcvy largely established
by the 1940s, and there have been only relatively minor changes since that time.
We know from documentary sources that
much of Naxos' agricultural landscape lay in
subdivided open fields in the Middle Ages.

Figure 2.

These fields seem to have been made up of

individual plots cultivated side-by-side within
the field as a whole. Kasdagli's ( 1999) study of
marriage contracts and wills from 17th-century
Naxos has brought to light a good deal of relevant documentary evidence that can help us to
intetpret the physical evidence of the farming
landscape. The 17th century was effectively
the last full century during which medieval
landholding practices prevailed on Naxos. The
island landscape was divided between a series
of feudal estates called in Greek topoi ('places').
The 56 topoi recorded in the tahrir dfier (Ottoman tax register) of 1670 were perhaps the same
56 that the island's first Venetian ruler, Marco
I Saudo, had established after his conquest
of Naxos in 1207 (Slot 1991: 197-98). In the
later 17th century, there were five Greek lords

A traditional diystone wall topped with thorns at Agios Mamas at Driti (J. Crow, August 2007).

The Fund for Meditenanean Archaeol<^/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes of Naxos


10 km


Apollo nas


Pilot HLC study area

Apano Kastro

Chora ^ , , v

Agia Kyriaki

irea of Fig. 7

~area of Fig. 3

plain of Drymalia/Tragea
area of Fig. 4

Ano Sangi


Apalirou Kastro

Key: Historic Landscape Character (HLC) types (see Table 2)

I Enclosures (modern)

Rough ground

I Braided terraces

I Enclosures (post-medievat)

Rough ground witfi braided terraces

I Terraced fields

I Olives

Rough ground with other types of terraces

I Step tenaces - straight

I Enclosures (based on step terraces)

Rough ground with enclosures and braided terraces

I Step terraces - contour

I Enclosures (based on braided terraces)

Rough ground with enclosures

I Check-dams

I Enclosures (based on medieval fields)


j False terraces (modern)

I Horticulture

I Villas (modern)

I Orchard

I Settlement (histohc)


I Settlement (modern)

I Quarry


Figure 1.

I Industrial

The island of Naxos, showing the area of sites, case studies mentioned in the text and the pilot HLC study

The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox IVblishing Ltd., 2011


Crow et al.


Figure 3.

Rough ground

Stream bed


Early Byzantine church

Olives - post-medieval

====== Track or road

Middle Byzantine church


Late Byzantine church

Settlement - modern

Field boundary

Settlement - historic


Historic landscape characterization (HLG) and retrogressive analysis of the area around Ghalki in the Drymalia/Tragea plain, Naxos. (Includes IKONOS material 2006, Space Imaging LLG. All rights reserved).

T h e Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Fxquinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes ofNaxos


Figure 4.





400 m

HLC and retrogressive analysis of the Ana area, Naxos. (Includes I K O N l J i marerial 2006, Space Imaging
LLC. All righrs reserved).

SffSight step terraces within

surveyed rectilinear fields

- 1

Remains of
post-medieval buildings

Figure 6.

Straighr step terraces within surveyed fields associated with deserted post-medieval farmsteads below Apano
Kastro, Naxos (J. Crow, October 2006).

The Fund for MaHteiranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd, 2011


Crow et al.
Agios Isidoros

Rough ground
Rough ground with enclosures
Rough ground wrth enclosed braided terraces
Olives - post-medval
Settlement - modem
Settlement - historic

Field boundary
Early Byzantine church
Middle Byzantine church

Taxiarchis Rachis



Figure 7.

HLC and retrogressive analysis of the area around Rachi at the northern end of the Drymalia/Tragea plain,
Naxos. (Includes IKONOS material 2006, Space Imaging LLC. All rights reserved).

Figure 8.

1 he middle Byzantine church of Agios Mamas. Braided terraces overlain by later post-medieval enclosure walls
are visible on the hillsides beyond. The peak on the horizon behind is site of the fortress of Apano Kastro
(J. Crow, October 2006).

T h e Fund for Meditenanean Archaeology/Hqiiinox Publishing Ud., 2011

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes of Naxos

of topoi, but the vast majority were Latins or of
Latin descent (Kasdagli 1999: 164-67). Each
of the topoi comprised a range of agricultural
resources including arable land and pasture.
Many examples of large fortified tower-houses
associated with these estates still survive, for
example the towers of Chalki, Kalavros, Bazeos
and Oskelos.
The documentary records preserve various
details about the character of 17th-century
fields. Ditches serving as both boundaries and
drains were common, whilst temporary fencing
of reeds, posts and twigs were also important.
In places stone walls {petrotoicho) formed the
outer boundaries of fields, although lands were
also delimited by irrigation channels, tracks,
bushes, trees, boulders or other natural features
(Kasdagli 1999: 90). The evidence suggests
that, during the 17th century and earlier, large
open fields comprising many individual plots
cultivated as a whole existed across much of the
islandprobably in every topos and every village. Such fields were called engairies, and the
term and practice wete still common in some
of the Cyclades until the late 19th century.
On Kimolos, for example, all arable land was
divided into an upper and a lower part {apano
meria and kato meria). The first part was sown
with crops each year and called the engairia;
it was separated by a wall or fence from the
second part which remained uncropped and
served as common pasturethe parengairia
(Kasdagli 1999: 99). On Kea, votes and probably/lzfyw/ were large tracts of land exploited
both for grazing and for growing arable crops
on unfenced subdivisions (Cherry et al. 1991 :
359-60; Whitelaw 1991: 410-11). According
to Kasdagli (1999: 100-101), the memory of a
similar field system has survived at the village
of Komiaki on Naxos, where in the past the
area around the village is supposed to have been
divided into four engairies, two of which would
be planted with arable crops, whilst two were
left unsown to provide grazing for livestock. In
the 17th century, the Jesuits' topos of Megalas
The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox I^lblishing Ltd., 2011


Petres was divided into upper and lower parts

that were cropped alternately. On such arable
lands, crop rotation was a prominent feature
of the farming system. Whilst little is known
about the rotations, there seems to have been
considerable fiexibility. For example, during
the 18 th century the fertile plains seem to have
been planted every year, the only respite coming
from leguminous crops. Elsewhere, in addition to fallowing, other means of restoring soil
fertility mentioned in 17th-century documents
included manuring and even burning over the
waste (Kasdagli 1999: 96-98).
In hilly areas, subdivisions of these open
fields could have been formed from blocks of
terraces, individual terraces or even parts of
long terraces. On Methana, the skala (a block
of terraces like a giant staircase) of 19th-century
terraces remained unfenced even in the 20th
century, with ownership of individual terraces
distributed amongst the kin of the village. The
land around each settlement was divided annually into two portions, so that one half was sown
for arable, whilst the second part was used for
other crops and for grazing (Forbes 2007: 19599). On Naxos strips of mountainous land that
may have been terraced are referred to as louroi
in the written sources (Kasdagli 1999: 88).
In the fiatter areas of the plains, it is harder
to suggest what form any sub-divisions of possible earlier fields might have taken. By applying
the principles of retrogressive analysis to a few
case studies, however, it is possible to suggest
tentatively the form of these hypothetical medieval field systems. The plain of Drymalia/Tragea
around the village of Chalki is now planted
with olives, and documentary records suggest
it has been since the 17th century (Kasdagli
1999: 37-39). Retrogressive analysis here reveals
a number of long, roughly parallel boundaries
running approximately east-west, which appear
to have once defined large roughly rectangular
units. These features are abutted by many shorter
north-south boundaries that appear to subdivide
them into long narrow parcels of land (Figure 3).


Crow et al.

Based on what is known from the Naxiot documentary sources, and by analogy with other parts
of Europe and the Mediterranean, it seems likely
that these post-medieval field boundaries could
perpetuate the layout of individual parcels or
strips in earlier open fields. On Kythera, archaeologists have tentatively suggested that similar
semi-regular field patterns may have Byzantine
or Medieval origins (Bevan et al 2003: 220).
Particularly around Chalki, but also around the
village of Ano Sangri, the subdividing boundaries are slightly curved in form. Elsewhere in
Europe, this morphology could be interpreted as
perpetuating the form of divisions in earlier open
arable fields. The Chalki examples are very similar to those identified in Crete's Mesara plain by
Rackham and Moody (1996: 147-49, fig. 12.6;
for other European examples see e.g. Chouquer
1993: 102France; Herring 2006England).
It seems highly likely that around Chalki, this
prime agricultural land would have formed the
core of the medieval topoi. In the HLC, such
areas have been mapped as 'Enclosures (postmedieval) based on Fields (medieval)'.
Indeed, our retrogressive analysis suggests the
post-medieval period was the time when most
existing field walls on Naxos were constructed.
Although some enclosures are recorded in medieval documents (Kasdagli 1987; 1999), it seems
likely that the period of their creation and the
enclosure of Naxos was probably after the abolition of feudal lordship in 1721 and during the
economic fluctuations of the mid-late 18th and
early 19th centuries (Kasdagli 1999: 167; Vionis
2011a). Where the earlier histories of these
fields can be discerned with a reasonable level
of confidence, the likely earlier HLC types are
included in the databasee.g. 'Field (medieval)'
or 'Braided terraces (medieval)'. In many cases,
however, it has not been possible to suggest what
the earlier landscape character might have been
with any degree of confidence, so the character
type has been described simply as 'Enclosures
(post-medieval)' in the database. This is an oversimplification that inevitably conceals richer his The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Eqtiinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

tories: further research and fieldwork is needed

to elucidate them.
Terraces (see Table 2)
Naxos and many other Cycladic islands are
heavily terraced landscapes. Terraces make it
possible to cultivate the steep mountainsides.
Scholars suggest that in addition to creating fiat
areas their main benefits include redistributing
sediment, increasing root penetration, improving water retention and controlling erosion,
and removing stones from the soil to make the
terrace walls (Rackham and Moody 1996: 142).
Ethnographic accounts suggest Aegean farmers
see stone clearance as a major reason for building
terraces (Forbes 2007: 53-54).
When terraces might have been created and
how they should be dated are subjects that have
given rise to considerable debate, particularly
in relation to classical antiquity. Some scholars
argue that there was little terracing in classical
Greece and that the lack of terms clearly referring to terraces in classical texts should be taken
to refiect an actual absence (e.g. Foxhall 1996;
Foxhall et al. 2007). Archaeological research in
some regions has suggested most terraces and
other boundaries in the modern Greek landscape
have recent origins. This is shown, for example,
in Lee's (2001) study of the village territory of
Maryeli in upland Messenia. It proved hard
to identify ancient structures in the landscape
around Maryeli, although Lee's work did not
involve detailed archaeological survey or excavation. Lee assumed that because terraces might
still have been built and repaired into the 1950s,
there was little to be gained by undertaking
detailed survey or recording of existing walls. As
a result, a number of strategies that might have
been pursued to help date the area's field systems
were not used (cf Price and Nixon 2005: 670).
On the Argolid's rocky Methana peninsula,
Forbes (2007: 60-61) has argued that the majority of terraces were built in the 19th century following population increases after the Greek War
of Independence. Before that time cultivation

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes of Naxos


seems to have been focussed around the single

early modern village, and travellers' accounts
recall a barren uncultivated landscape across the
rest of the peninsula.
In contrast, scholars elsewhere claim there is
evidence for terraces from prehistory onwards.
Recent research around the Mediterranean has
been reviewed and synthesized by Harfouche
(2007); she outlines a methodology for dating
terraces by excavation and presents a range of
case studies with particular emphasis on southern France in the late Iron Age and Roman
period (for terraces dated to the Roman period
in western Spain, see Ruiz del rbol 2005; Ballesteros Arias and Criado Boado 2009).

Byzantine (Brunet 1999; Harfouehe 2007: 1566). High-resolution imagery available through
Google Earth (January 2008) certainly shows
that the form of the drystone enelosure boundaries of Delos are morphologieally different to
the post-medieval enclosure walls of Naxos,
or indeed those on the neighbouring island of
Rhenea. Instead, they appear to be associated
with the 20th-century farms noted by Harfouche (2007: 154-55). Beneath these boundaries lie abandoned terraces. Although some of
these terraces are rather regular in form (hinting
at a more recent date), many have a slightly
sinuous morphology and braiding that suggests
more than a single phase of development.

In Greece, terraces on the islet of Pseira off

Crete have been dated to the Bronze Age by their
stratification below a layer containing tephra
from the eruption of Thera (Betancourt and
Hope Simpson 1992). On Crete itself, Raekham
and Moody (1996) and Price and Nixon (2005)
have suggested ancient dates for terraces in Sphakia and elsewhere based on a range of criteria. In
a few cases these include excavated evidence or
stratification below living ancient olive trees, like
the one at Phoinix-Loutro, dated by its tree-rings
to the Hellenistic period (Raekham and Moody
1996: 86). Most of the examples cited by Price
and Nixon (2005: 672-73), however, are dated
by association with buildings or other structures
rather than by direct evidence.
Some of the most convincing evidence for
classical terracing comes from the Cyeladie
island of Delos. Historians and archaeologists
have suggested the terraces here may be classical in origin, not only beeause they are assoeiated with the remains of elassieal farmsteads
but also beeause the island is assumed to have
been deserted from the early Byzantine period
until the mid-20th eentury (Brunet 1990; Poupet 2000). Arehaeologieal evaluation trenehes
within the terraee system have yielded pottery
well-stratified within a developed soil strueture;
although the date of this eeramie material is
uneertain, it is not thought to be later than

Archaeologists working on Kythera have identified terracing of probable Byzantine or medieval

date (Bevan et al. 2003), and scientific studies
suggest that in places these features are 'polycyclic' re-workings of older structures (Krahtopoulou and Frederick 2008; recent fieldwork on
Antikythera promises further insightsBevan et
al. 2008; Bevan and Conolly 2011). On Kea and
Lesbos, terracing systems of pre-18th-eentury
date have been identified by assoeiation and by
their stratigraphie relationships to other features
(Whitelaw 1991: 405-10; Sehaus and Speneer
1994; for Lesbos see also Kizos and Koulouri
2006). Using various dating methods, ineluding
stratified finds from excavation and association
with settlement sites. Price and Nixon (2005:
674-75) have argued that terraces from the Byzantine/ Venetian/Turkish periods are common in
the Sphakia region of Crete. Late-medieval visitors to the Aegean such as Belon Du Mans noted
the presence of terraees, ineluding areas of desertion (Harfouehe 2007: 153). On Naxos, 17theentury doeumentary sourees refer to louroi,
whieh may represent terraeed subdivisions of
open engairies (Kasdagli 1999: 88).

The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

The available evidenee suggests that eultivation terraees are likely to have existed in many
Aegean (espeeially insular) landscapes during
elassieal antiquity. Terraees were also built, reused, repaired and developed during the Middle


Crow et al.

Ages. In other places, however, it seems terracing was largely absent until tbe 19th century.
Such differences must have contributed significantly to differences in the economic, social
and cultural landscapes of each area. Similarly,
archaeological and historical evidence suggests
that diflferent regions and islands witnessed significant variations in patterns of landholding,
agricultural practice, distribution of settlement
and establishment of religious sites in the medieval and post-medieval periods. By mapping,
understanding and analysing these regional variations we should gain a richer and more textured
awareness of how local societies functioned and
tiltimately of how today's Aegean landscapes
came to be created.
Away from the plains, much of the land
mapped for the HLC is terraced. Rackham and
his collaborators have identified six principal terrace types widespread in the Cyclades: braided
terraces, contour terraces, straight step terraces,
check-dams, terraced fields and modern false
terraces (Rackham and Moody 1996: 140-45;
Crove and Rackham 2001: 108). We have used
this existing classification as tbe basis for our historic landscape character types. Here we discuss
the first three of them as they pertain to Naxos.
As on other Cycladic islands, there are many
areas where field boundaries, usually drystone walls, cut across earlier terraces (e.g. Kea:
Whitelaw 1991). As we have observed earlier,
virtually all examples of braided terraces on
Naxos are overlain stratigraphically by enclosure
boundaries that divide the terrace systems into
discrete blocks (Figure 4). It is not uncommon
for individual terraces within such systems to
abut dividing walls, although invariably other
terraces within the same system will underlie
them. This shows that, in these terrace systems,
there have been long (possibly discontinuous)
periods of use with several phases of terrace development. The underlying terraces must antedate
the walls, which themselves are no later than
the 18th or 19th centuries in the vast majority
of cases (Figure 5). Our analysis of the RAF air
The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeoiog}^/quinQx Publishing Ltd., 2011

photographs taken in 1943 shows that such walls

have very rarely been newly built since then.
In a study undertaken 198992 primarily to
provide data on soil erosion and terrace degradation, Lehmann (1993; 1994) suggested tentatively that many Naxos terraces in his study area
may have been used last for cultivation between
the I4th and 17th centuries. Crove and Rackham (2001: 264-65) contend that Lehmann's
date for the abandonment of Naxos' terraces is
likely to be too early, but nevertheless his general
conclusions support the idea that braided terrace
systems on the island are likely to have medieval
origins. In places, the location of dated Byzantine monuments hints at the antiquity of Naxiot
terrace systems. Although the relationship cannot be proved absolutely without fieldwork on
the ground, many Byzantine churches appear to
stand on terraces within braided terrace systems.
Examples include the early Byzantine churches
of the Taxiarchis Rachis and Agios Isidoros in
Rachi (Crow and Turner 2011), where both
monuments perch on long terraces constructed
along the hillside. On the opposite side of the
valley below, the middle Byzantine church of
the Panagia Rachidiotissa, great oaks that must
be several hundred years old stand on similarly
massive terraces that can run for at least 800 m.
If earlier than the churches, the Rachi terraces
must be late antique or classical (see Figure 7).
Similar long, slightly sinuous terraces run along
the hillsides below the classical temple of Demeter near Ano-Sangri.
Archaeological field survey also hints at the
antiquity of these terrace systems. Extensive field
survey has been carried out by the 2nd Ephorate
of Byzantine Antiquities around the church of
Agia Kyriaki Kalonis, an early Byzantine monument north-east of Apeiranthos. Analysis of the
ceramics collected during this work by Vionis
(2011b) suggests that up to 70% of the ancient
surface finds belong to the 7th-9th centuries AD
and are comprised mostly of vessels associated with agricultural production and transport
(pithoi, jars, amphorae). Curving dry-stone walls

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes of Naxos

Figure 5.


The terraced landscape of Naxos: view towards Apano Kastro from the southwest showing a typical Naxiot
landscape of braided terraces enclosed and overlain by later drystone walls (J. Crow, August 2007).

enclose small fields here that only partially and

untidily enclose the terraces; the latter are probably related to the early Byzantine settlement.
The evidence suggests that whatever the original date of Naxos' braided terrace systems, the
vast majority would have existed in or before the
17th century. Systems of braided terraces have
therefore been described as 'medieval' in the
HLC database, even if many could have earlier
For the purposes of our HLC, 'step-terraces'
are defined as terrace systems with roughly
parallel terrace boundaries that lack significant
braiding. They are virtually always enclosed
by dry-stone walls, and we have identified two
main kinds. Contour step terraces follow the
contours of the hillsides, so they tend to be sinuous in form. Several factors suggest the majority
of these systems are probably post-medieval in
date. First, the terraces ofien abut their enclosure
boundaries instead of underlying them as in the
case of braided terraces. Secondly, many systems
The Fund for Meditcirancan Archaiogy/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

appear to be of only one phase, suggesting a

relatively short lifetime in use. Thirdly, they are
most commonly located in upland locations,
principally towards the eastern edge of the study
area on the slopes of Mount Zas. Virtually none
have been newly created since the 1940s.
Straight step terraces share most of the characteristics of contour step terraces, but instead of
being sinuous they are cut straight across the hillsides to create rigidly parallel straight lines. Like
contour step terraces, most are in upland locations, though some have been created in lowerlying arable areas by remodelling earlier fields. A
few examples have been created in the later 20th
century, but most were already in existence by
the 1940s; most straight step terraces probably
belong to the 19th century. There are excellent
examples in the bleak, boulder-strewn uplands
to the west of Apano Kastro, where step terraces
(mostly now deserted) sit within straight surveyed field boundaries associated with deserted
post-medieval farmsteads (Figure 6).


Crow et al.

Unlocking Historie Landscapes: The Byzantne Churches of Naxos

In our research on Naxos, we are particularly
interested in the research applications of HLC
and how it can help us to understand past
landscapes and societies. In the last part of this
study, we use the example of Byzantine churches
to explore some of this potential.
Archaeologists have increasingly argued that
to separate different aspects of lifeeconomic,
political, cultural, religiouscreates false divisions that weaken our analyses and our understanding of people in the past (Bradley 2000;
Johnson 2007: 130-33). Instead, they argue
that we should integrate the study of different
elements of past societies (albeit using different bodies of theory) to gain richer, more
contextual interpretations of both mental and
material landscapes. Several recent studies of
medieval European landscapes have attempted
to analyse the location of churches and chapels,
and how the influence they exerted shaped later
landscapes in Ireland, Scandinavia and Britain
('Carragin 2003; Altenberg 2003; Turner
2006b, the last of which used simple HLCs to
analyse the relationships between churches, settlements and land-use patterns).
Scholars of the prehistoric and classical periods have tackled religious and ritual landscapes with satisfying results in Greece (Peatfield
1992; Alcock 1993: 172-214). Until now there
have been relatively few attempts to explore
the sacred landscapes of the Byzantine world
beyond the purview of particular well-known
monuments (e.g. Coleman and Eisner 1994;
Rackham and Moody 1996; on the isolated
chapels from Cappodocia, see Kalas 2009).
The place of medieval and later churches in
the modern landscape of Methana has recently
been explored by Forbes (2007: 354-55); he
argues that it is impossible to understand the
Greek landscape without considering both the
spiritual and agricultural lives of its inhabitants.
Although the focus of his ethnographic study is
The Ftmd for Mediterranean Archaeology/Eqtiinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

the last three or four generations, he does show

that the location of Byzantine and early modern
churches has significantly infiuenced the settlement pattern of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Nevertheless, he does not discuss the place
of churches in Byzantine landscapes. One of
the only archaeological studies to attempt this
is Nixon's (2006) recent study on the medieval
and later landscapes of Sphakia, Crete. She
argues that churches are an integral part of the
historic landscape of Sphakia, and that they fulfilled a number of important roles in the medieval period, for example as landmarks, boundary
points, and memorials (Nixon 2006: 23-31).
Just as in other parts of medieval Europe, on
Crete churches frequently seem to have been
associated with areas of important natural or
agricultural resources, and were largely absent
from the wilder country of the uplands (Nixon
2006: 88-89; Gerstal 2005: 166; Kalas 2009:
88-90; Roymans 1995; Turner 2006b). In Sphakia, however, only one church dates to the 11 th
century or earlier so it is hard to draw conclusions about the early Byzantine landscape. On
Naxos, the situation is rather different.
The island of Naxos possesses an extensive
corpus of churches almost unique in their
chronological range in the Byzantine world.
There are a significant number of early Christian
basilicas, both on the coast and in the interior
valleys of the island, attesting some prosperity in
late antiquity (Crow and Turner 2011). A recent
publication by Mastoropoulos (n.d.) briefiy
catalogues 148 individual buildings, many of
which have the remains of medieval painted
decoration. Despite a certain degree of scholarly
dispute about the chronology of these paintings,
the churches may be dated from the late Roman
period to the beginning of Ottoman rule.
Across the island and especially in the valleys
of the interior, there is a remarkable corpus of
early medieval painted churches and an unusually high proportion of these show traces of
aniconic decoration, often revealed as the earliest phase of several layers of painted decoration.

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes of Naxos

The date of these remains a matter of scholarly
debate amongst archaeologists and art historians and it is still disputed whether these are
to be attributed to the iconoclast period (8th
to 9th centuries) (Chatzidakis 1989; Brubaker
and Haldon 2001; Crow and Turner 2011).
Whatever the exact period, those displaying
features of aniconic decoration are likely to date
before the 11 th century and, crucially for an
understanding of the historic landscapes of the
island, many of these buildings are set amongst
the current groves and terraces that form the
main focus of our study. It is also in this period
when the great mountain fortress of Apalirou
was built, and the island remained an important
staging point for the Byzantine fieet until the
recapture of Crete in 964.
The Byzantine churches of Naxos occur in
all types of landscape locations, from plains to
mountain peaks. The densest clusters are found
inland, in the fertile plains of Drymalia/Tragea
and Sangri, but others lie in mountain villages
and valleys, on ridges and hilltops, and on coastal
plains and cliffs. Two major hilltop fortifications
preserve the remains of many ruined churches.
Between Potamia and Tsikalario, the Venetian
castle-settlement of Apano Kastro (built in the
13th or early I4th century and repaired in the
15th-16th centuries) contains several churches,
all of which belong to the later Middle Ages
(Vionis 2011a). The mighty Byzantine fortress
of Apalirou Kastro contains several Byzantine
churches including one that probably dates to
the 7th or 8th century; a smaller fortification
south of Filoti encircles the middle Byzantine
church of Agios Ioannis Prdromos 'Kastelitis'.
This hilltop location, however, seems relatively
unusual for early Naxiot churches. Although a
few churches stand on prominent ridges, most
are sited in valleys or on low hillsides, like the
cluster of early churches in and around the plain
of Drymalia/Tragea which include the Protothronos of Chalki, Agios Isidoros of Rachi and
the Taxiarchis of Rachi (Figure 7). The evidence
of architecture, sculpture and painting suggests
The Fund for Meditenanean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2011


many churches here had their origins between

the 6th or 7th to 10th centuries, and that they
were in use throughout the Middle Ages.
In combination with other archaeological and
historical evidence, the HLC can help us understand the locations of these churches as well as
certain aspects of their meaning to the people
who built them. The HLC provides a model
for modern and post-medieval landscapes, and
allows us to see more clearly where different
agricultural resources were probably located in
the Middle Ages. With reference to the HLC, it
becomes clear that some of the oldest surviving
Byzantine churches not only lie within historic
villages like Chalki and Melanes, but also at the
heart of significant agricultural zones (Figure 8).
Elsewhere archaeological field survey has shown
that churches such as the Panagia Arion and
Agios Kyriaki Kalonis are located amidst significant scatters of Early and Middle Byzantine
pottery and even adjacent to Byzantine buildings (Mastoropoulos n.d.: 199; Vionis 2011b).
Though they now stand some distance from
today's major settlements, the HLC reveals that
they are still located at the heart of productive
farming zones that have been actively exploited
since the Middle Ages.
Beyond the historic villages there are also
ancient outlying churches like Agios Isidoros and
the Taxiarchis Rachis. These both lie at the intersection between areas of historic arable farming
and the rough grazing ground beyond; the HLC
suggests they have been 'boundary' churches for
many hundreds of years, perhaps even since they
were first constructed. The exoklisia (oudying
chapels) of Naxos are therefore just as much an
integral part of the surviving historic pattern of
the landscape as their counterparts on Crete or
in Cappadocia (Nixon 2006: 69; Kalas 2009).

The study of Byzantine archaeology has ofi:en concentrated on monuments (especially churches)
and most frequently the specific study of their


Crow et al.

painted deeorations. More integrated foeus on

the arehaeology of the Byzantine landscape has
often been concerned with quite limited areas,
such as parts of Macedonia, where it has been
possible to combine field survey with the study
of surviving documents, most often from great
monastic estates. The value of sueh an approach
has been demonstrated by Lefort (1985) and
others, and it provides unique insights into
the structure of rural communities. Nonetheless these studies restrict our knowledge of the
Byzantine lands to a few isolated regions and
more significantly date primarily from the 11 th
century onwards.
While we recognize the limitations of the written sourees for Naxos before the later middle
ages, we eonsider that our research has demonstrated that through a eombination of HLC
and retrogressive analysis it has been possible to
reveal the greater diversity and time-depth apparent aeross the eomplex terraeed and enclosed
landscapes of the island. The study of the insular
landscapes formed part of a eombined exereise
in applying HLC teehniques to two disparate
parts of the Byzantine, Ottoman and eontemporary 'Aegean' world. In the Silivri study area
(Crow and Turner 2009), the historieal reeord,
espeeially over the past two eenturies, suggests
a radical dislocation of populations; yet from
the landscape study there are clear markers of
surviving landscape components extending back
over several centuries. By contrast the historieal
and dmographie reeord on Naxos would imply
a broad continuity over at least a millennium,
revealed from our study through the time-depth
apparent in the braided terraees in areas sueh as
Aria, Raehi and Ano Sangri. Preeise chronology
at this stage of our study still remains elusive,
but a future programme of integrated field survey ineorporating the aneient olive trees and
the unique eorpus of early medieval deeorated
ehurehes offer vital clues for enhanced chronological resolution to understand the evolution of
the historic and contemporary landscape.

The Ftind for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2011

By integrating a wide range of sources we can

create well-contextualized interpretations of past
societies and places (see examples from Greece
and Cyprus in Davies and Davis 2007; Given
and Hadjianastasis 2010). Using GIS and HLC
provides a spatial framework that allows difterent
disciplinary perspectives and different sources to
be brought to bear on particular questions about
the past. More generally, HLC provides the
opportunity to gain insights into the relationships and ehanges that have shaped long-term
landscape evolution. This understanding of how
landscapes have changed is usefiil to arehaeologists who want to understand past soeieties, but
its value also extends fiirther.
One of the key attributes of landseapes is that
they change, a process that will continue in the
ftiture (CoE 2000). HLC-based studies not only
help archaeologists understand past landscapes,
but also help planners and landscape managers
shape future landscapes (Turner 2006a). Understanding how places have developed in the past
provides the knowledge landscape managers need
to move beyond simply regarding eultural landseapes as 'traditional', with no appreeiation of
time-depth or historieal proeesses. Better information about past changes and previous landscape character will help them decide what types
of change are most appropriate for the ftiture
(Turner and Fairelough 2007; Bolos 2010). Our
pilot study has shown the HLC method could
be used to inform landscape research and other
applieations in the eastern Mediterranean, just as
it is in north-western Europe.
1. For examples of surveys incorporating Byzantine and post-Byzantine landscape survey in
Greece see Davis 1991; Davies and Davis 2007;
and Gregory 2010. Alcock 2007 and Terrenato
2007 provide a valuable overview of recent
studies of the Greek and Roman countryside.
Bintliff 2007 offers an assessment of the Greek

Characterizing the Historic Landscapes ofNaxos

regional survey in a wider context. Intensive
field survey has been less common in Turkey,
though the territory of Sagalassos has been
studied by Vanhaverbeke et al (2007). Current
projects include surveys in the Gksu valley
led by Hugh Elton (
and in the territory of Avkat led by John Haldon (
The research for this project was undertaken
with the assistance of an award from the Arts
and Humanities Research Council (UK) as part
of the Landscape and Environment Programme.
We are grateful for the support and interest from
a number of scbolars, in particular Malcolm
WagstaflF, John Bintliff, Andrew Bevan and Ruth
Makrides. Charalambos Pennas of the Byzantine Ephoria showed a generous interest in our
research and David Alderson of the School of
Civil Engineering and Ceosciences at Newcastle
University provided valuable technical support.

About the Authors

Jim Crow is Professor of Classical Archaeology
and current Head of Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. He studied at the Universities of Birmingham and Newcastle upon
Tyne. He has directed excavations on Hadrian's
Wall for the National Trust and previously
taught Roman and Byzantine archaeology at
Warwick and Newcastle universities. His main
publications and research have been concerned
with Roman and Byzantine frontiers and more
recently with the hinterland and infrastructures
of Byzantine Constantinople and the application of remote sensing technologies in collaboration with Istanbul Technical University.
Sam Turner is Senior Lecturer in Archaeology
in the School of Historical Studies, Newcastle
University. His research interests include early
medieval archaeology and landscape history. He
T h e Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Eqtiinox Publishing Ltd., 2011


studied archaeology for his MA at the Institute

of Archaeology, University College London,
and for a PhD at the University of York. He has
worked on methods for the characterization of
historic landscapes and seascapes in Britain and
Ireland, Europe and the Mediterranean. He is
currently editor of Medieval Settlement Research
and assistant editor of Landscape Research.
Athanasios Vionis (BA University of Durham,
PhD University of Leiden) is Lecturer in Byzantine Archaeology and Art in the Department of
History and Archaeology, University of Cyprus.
His research interests include the study of urban
and rural landscapes and the material culture
of the Byzantine/medieval and post-medieval
Aegean. He has participated in archaeological
fieldwork in Creece (Cyclades, Chios, Kythera,
Zakynthos, Euboea, Achaea, Boeotia) and Turkey (Sagalassos), and he is currently Assistant
Field Director of the Leiden Ancient Cities of
Boeotia Project. His monograph A Crusader,
Ottoman and Early Modern Aegean Archaeology
is in press in the Archaeological Studies series,
Leiden University Press.

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