Professor John Haldon
The Avkat Survey Project
The Avkat Survey (jointly managed by members of Princeton University and of the University of Birmingham/UK), for which planning and fundraising began in 2005, is now established. A successful workshop/colloquium was held at Princeton in May 2006 to discuss and work out strategic issues; and the first season's survey work, in August 2007, is now planned and budgeted. Project funding is managed by an oversight committee of colleagues from several departments at Princeton . The project is conducted in co-operation with the HPVista Spatial and Visualisation Centre of the University of Birmingham/UK. The project is part of the British Institute at Ankara strategic research initiative Settlement history of Anatolia . Co-operation with the Tabula Imperii Byzantini of the Austrian Academy of Sciences , the University of Fribourg ( Switzerland ) and Ko ç University , Istanbul , is in place.
In July and August 2006 two separate reconnaissance visits were made, and the results more than fulfilled expectations. The intention was to scout the site and survey area and liaise with local officials with a view to establishing more permanent relationships in the course of the year 2006-2007. In the event, we were able to complete all preliminary negotiations ahead of schedule and received good support from senior, middle and junior officials at local and regional levels as well as at government level in Ankara. The site includes a prominent hill jutting out from the Avkat Dağ where a (medieval) wall circuit, corner tower, probable gateway and proteichisma were clearly visible. Substantial amounts of surface ceramics, both pottery and rooftile, were visible, as well as worked stone, and also small quantities of Bronze Age material. A good deal of ancient stonework was visible in the village, including large column fragments, a water channel block, some pavers from a road, substantial amounts of ceramic pipework. Two relatively crude inscriptions in Greek, as yet unrecorded, as well as epigraphic material in Armenian and Ottoman script, were also noted.
The survey area is located in the province of Çorum , sub-district Mecitözü. The central focus is on the village of Beyözü, formerly Avkat (Euchaita) and its hinterland (westwards towards Alveren, east towards Sülüklü, northwards onto the Avkat Dağı, and south along the local roads towards the D180), including the communications network, hydrology and settlement pattern of the region. Given the nature of the project, aimed at investigating the topographical interfaces between the ancient settlement and the later history of its district, the total survey area will eventually extend across a broader region, to take account of the wider geographical and land-use context, and will include the area framed by the settlements of Elmalı to the west and Kalecik in the east, with the Duvenci Ovası in the north and the Kirlar Dağı to the south essentially, the northern part of the river plain of the Efennik/Tanözü Ç.For our provisional webpages, see http://history.princeton.edu/programs/e157/the_euchaita-avkat_p.html
The ancient site of Euchaita, mod. Beyözü, has been occupied since prehistoric, and certainly since Hittite times the modern village, which partially occupies the Roman lower city, is dominated by two hills, a bronze age site and what is currently taken to be the location of a Byzantine/Seljuk fortress. This project is about bringing a traditional rural community into contact with its own past, both recent and more distant, by involving local people in historical and archaeological research and educational programs, and by helping them develop tourism which is sensitive to the cultural and social needs of the community and to the historical and natural environment. It also aims to open up opportunities for local economic development and enhancement of local resources, especially water resources.
The project thus has three distinct foci: an archaeological-historical dimension; a social-cultural dimension, which will concern itself with the communitys recent past, family history, and development; and, connecting with both of these, an economic and cultural development dimension concentrating on the enhancement of local resources, know-how and amenities for the community as a whole.
Why Beyözü? The answer is simple: Beyözü (Avkat until the 1930s), is the site of ancient and medieval Euchaita, located on the northern edge of the central Anatolian plateau. Historical information about such sites in the medieval period especially is extremely sparse, and the site at Beyözü gives historians and archaeologists a wonderful opportunity to fill a huge gap in our knowledge, while at the same time offering cultural and economic support and development opportunities to a typical small Anatolian rural community in an environmentally- and community-friendly way. During the Roman period it was a fairly unimportant settlement. But from the third or fourth century it began to gain a reputation as the centre of the cult of St Theodore Tiro (the Recruit), was walled in the early 6th century, and raised to the status of a bishopric by the Roman emperor Anastasius before 518. From the seventh century, with the Arab Islamic conquest of the eastern Roman provinces and the retreat of the Roman now Byzantine frontier into Anatolia, Euchaita became a military base behind the frontier. It remained a provincial centre until its conquest at the time of the Seljuk occupation of eastern Asia Minor in the later 11th century. Thereafter its importance dwindled and though most of the Ottoman period was a small village below the acropolis or fortress. Yet the district itself remained economically important and the history of the several villages in the region can be traced through the Ottoman archival documents right up to the later nineteenth century.
From a historical perspective, therefore, the project offers the opportunity to trace the history of a single region across a period of more than two millennia, to elucidate its role in the ancient, medieval and modern political contexts, and to show the effects of human activity in transforming the landscape, tracking shifting settlement and demographic patterns, and explaining transformations in land-use, agricultural and pastoral farming and urban-rural relationships.
The importance of the site lies in four areas. First, unlike nearly all excavated or surveyed urban or fortified centres of the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods 6 th 11 th centuries Euchaita was never a major metropolis, cultural centre or extensive urban site. In contrast, it was a small, if at times strategically significant, provincial town, something of a backwater for much of its history. In this respect, therefore, it is much more typical of the average' urban or fortified centre of Asia Minor , yet we know almost nothing about such sites because none has yet been excavated with a view to following such long-term changes. Archaeologists have concentrated, for a range of reasons, on major ports and cities whose history is relatively well-known at least in their broad outlines Ephesos, Amastris, Pergamon, Ankara, Amorion whereas sites such as Euchaita, which are no longer occupied and thus offer superb possibilities for excavation, have been ignored. A full survey of the site and its wider environs is possible, therefore, with minimal disturbance to local populations and minimal complications from later settlement. It offers a unique opportunity to research the history of a late Roman town from its foundation as such under Anastasius between 515 and 518 CE, along with the small fortress which grew up on the hill behind it after the middle of the seventh century. It was a typical fortified semi-urban site, which formed an important element in the network of urban centres of the middle Byzantine world, a significant part of the defences along the eastern frontier of the Byzantine empire in the medieval period, one which represented the norm' of provincial fortified sites; as well as a typical rural province within the Ottoman empire right up to the 20 th century. It also offers an outstanding opportunity to establish an environmental and landscape history of the region and relate this directly to the pattern of human activity across several millennia. The development of computer technologies that permit the manipulation and visualisation of complex, spatially referenced geographic and mathematical data in complex situations makes a much more detailed and functionally-useful account of the survey area possible. GISs, virtual reality modelling and a variety of visual technologies are at the forefront of this development, and make the complex modelling of the effects of human behaviour on landscapes and the environment an attainable target.
Second, its history is not undocumented. Casual references in ancient texts, and potentially some Hittite administrative documents of the early 1 st millennium BCE, provide evidence of its status in pre-Hellenistic times; a collection of medieval miracles of the later seventh century CE offers important information about life in such a fortress at that time; the letters of its bishop, John Mauropous, who held the see in the eleventh century, describe many aspects of life in the town; while Ottoman documents provide information about the local population, their tax-status and occupations, from the 16 th century onwards. There is in addition a good deal of incidental material in chronicles of both Byzantine and Islamic origin, as well as epigraphic and sigillographic material, especially with regard to its ecclesiastical history. Travellers of the Ottoman period, and European visitors, have also left reports or comments on the site or its district.
Third, its role as a military base, situated as it was near an important military road in Byzantine times, together with the opportunity to conduct a detailed paleoenvironmental survey of the region around it, to reconstruct its medieval landscape, and to relate the archaeological and palynological (pollen analysis) evidence for land-use and food-production during the ancient, medieval and early modern periods, makes it a perfect focus for the detailed surveys of specific catchment areas required by the Medieval Logistics Project.
Finally, Avkat in the Ottoman period was a small village typical of the Asia Minor hinterland of the empire, and in comparison with many larger and more substantial centres, both commercially as well as in terms of local industry, offers a useful opportunity to study such a rural settlement in its larger historical context.This project offers opportunities for an interdisciplinary research project of international importance, which will advance very considerably our knowledge and understanding of the history of the site and the area around it, of the society and economy of the ancient, medieval Byzantine and Seljuk/Ottoman periods in other words, from ca. 500 BCE 1900 CE - and also permit the application of modern survey, mapping and digital modelling techniques on a large scale, in ways which will benefit archaeological and historical research as well as the earth and geographical sciences.