Research

Research and Field Work

Current

Visual Culture in Late Antique Cyprus (book)

In the mid-fourth century the island of Cyprus underwent dramatic societal transformation, prompted by imperial restructuring and cultural upheaval. After a series of devastating earthquakes, Emperor Constantius II (337 to 361) moved the capital of the island from Paphos (on the western coast) to Salamis (on the eastern coast), renaming it “Constantia”; this literally reoriented the island towards the emperor’s preferred palace in Antioch, as well as the refurbished cultural destination–Jerusalem.  As a result of these changes, the archbishop moved his see from Paphos to Constantia, and would become the cultural “president” of the island.

I am currently writing a monograph that describes and analyzes these changes and how they would shape the island’s art and architecture, as well as its economic and cultural institutions until the Byzantine reconquest of 965.

 

Usharal-Ilibalyk: The Discovery of a Lost City on the Silk Road (book, co-authored by Dimitry Voyakin, Thomas Davis, and Steven Gilbert)

Between 2014 and 2017 a team of Kazakh and American archaeologists investigated  a large medieval settlement on the north bank of the Ili River near the Kazakhstan and Chinese border.  In this area were discovered 18 stone monuments carved with a crosses and Syriac-inscriptions, which testify to a large Christian community; this was the first evidence of early Christianity  gleaned from a scientific excavation in Kazakhstan. Based on their analysis, this site was identified; Armenian, Persian, and Chinese sources of 12th to 14th centuries mention a place called Ilanbaliq, Ilibalyk, and Ilibali, respectively. The site, now known as Usharal-Ilibalyk should be considered the most important medieval settlement in the northern region of Zhetysu (Semirechiye), alongside Qayalyk (modern Koilyk), in Kazakhstan. Ilibalyk was part of the network of trade routes, connected to other medieval cities to the southwest, such as Suyab (Ak-Beshim), Navakent (Krasnaya Rechka), and Balasagun (Burana) in Kyrgyzstan, as well as cities to the east, Almalyk and Ghulja in China. The discovery of Usharal-Ilibalyk has been a catalyst to reassess the development of early Christianity and its monumental artworks in Asia.

 

Divine Wisdom: In Art and Architecture (book)

Building on the research of my mentor, Professor Eugene Kleinbauer, over the past 15 years I have been conducting first-hand analysis and drafting plans of the ancient monuments dedicated to Saint Sophia: Istanbul and Iznik (Turkey), Thessaloniki (Greece), Sofia (Bulgaria), Kiev (Ukraine), Benevento (Italy), and Nicosia (Cyprus). In my investigations the question continues to persist: What did sophia (σοφία, sapientia) mean to the patrons, congregants, and architects? The answer necessarily is rooted in the primary sources that discuss philosophy and theology; and, naturally, the topic is vast when various Jewish, Islamic, and Gnostic views are included. In other words, a simple concise answer does not exist. So I have amassed a hefty archive devoted to constructing a satisfying hypothesis. It is hoped that this research, when published, will refresh our conception of ancient wisdom as applied to the visual arts.

 

What is Beauty? (Book)

Over the past century materialistic-secularism has dominated western intellectual thought and this has led to a strident relativism. Things that are quantifiable are considered real and treated objectively, whereas things that are qualitative are considered unreal and treated subjectively.  This presents a problem since the intellect itself cannot be quantified and quantification (mathematics) is immaterial. Currently there is a crisis in higher education since this intellectual contradiction is undermining the purpose of higher education itself.  The discipline of Art History has been a casualty of secularism, reduced to the mere study of pigment and historical facts, or else arts’ religious messages would lead (i.e. educate) students to qualitative standards and, if possible,  transcendent experience.  To the materialistic-secularist beauty is a problem since it challenges superficial materialism and aspires students towards substantive spirituality.

 

Middle Byzantine Fortification on Cyprus (field survey)

Investigated the archaeological remains of the fortifications of Cyprus. I focused on the four castles: Kyrenia, St. Hilarion, Buffavento, Kantara. First preliminary results pending publication.

 

2005–15

Design of Byzantine Cisterns and Reservoirs (field survey)

Analyzed and drafted plans of the large reservoir known as the Loutron in Salamis (Cyprus). Field visits made to Roman and Byzantine cisterns for comparative data: Rome and Bacoli (Italy) and Istanbul and Aspendos (Turkey). Chapter in a collected volume completed and is forthcoming.

Architectural Innovations in the Early Byzantine period (field survey)

Investigated the development of architectural forms, such as the buttress,  flying buttresses, and pointed arch in Late Antique and Byzantine monuments. Field work was conducted in Cyprus, Italy, Greece, Israel, and Turkey. Long article and chapter in collected volume completed.

Early Byzantine Fortification on Cyprus (field survey)

Analyzed the archaeological remains of the fortifications of Cyprus. I focused on the ancient walls of Amathous, Salamis-Constantia, and Carpasia. Chapter/article completed.

Cathedral of St. George, Famagusta (long article)

Examined the sequence of building from the Byzantine structure to the Gothic structure. Drafted new plans and diagrams.  I am waiting to release the results, in respect to my colleagues (Dr. Tassos Papacostas and Dr. Michalis Olympios) who have prepared their publications prior to mine; their chapters in Medieval Famagusta, edited by Professor Chris Schabel et al., is in the printing stage.

Painting in Early Byzantine Cyprus (field survey)

Investigated the evidence of painting known through archaeological contexts and reports. I focused on the frescos at Agia Paraskevi (Yeroskipou), Agia Barbara (Koroveia), and Agios Antonios (Kellia). Results are being processed.

Late Antique Cyprus Sculpture (survey)

This completed research examined the development of limestone, marble, and plaster sculpture on Cyprus. Publication is pending.

2000–08

Design and Vaulting Methods in Byzantine Cyprus (field survey)

Inspected surviving ceilings and roofs of monuments, especially churches that were converted from wood-trussed roofs to vaults. Preliminary articles have been completed; wider treatment is planned for a monograph which will include Aegean and southern Anatolian structures.

Domes of Heaven: The Domed Basilicas of Cyprus (published dissertation)

Examined the archaeology and fabric of the multiple-domed churches of Cyprus. All the strands of evidence indicate, with relative certainty, that these monuments were developed between the years 650 and 965. The historical context indicates that these idiosyncratic buildings were possible due to Cypriot neutrality between the Byzantine Empire and the Arab Caliphate. Simply put, they were culturally “byzantine” while distinctively “Cypriot” in design and style.

Domed Basilicas of France (architectural survey)

Examined the archaeology and fabric of the multiple-domed churches of France, specifically Aquitaine and the western Loire Valley. Processing of this data has been suspended. I will eventually return to this topic.

1995-2000

Medieval Castle Survey

Visited and researched the earliest masonry castles in France and Britain. I theorized western European castles developed according to the major military expeditions in the Levant. These castles are generally categorized in three chronological phases:  (1) motte and bailey, (2) keep and bailey, (3) concentric castles. The “motte and bailey” type was developed by the Normans by the mid-eleventh century, which corresponds to  the end of the Byzantine-Bulgarian War (970-1018), in which Franks and the Rus played an integral role. Note that Byzantine chroniclers called all western Europeans “Franks”, including the Normans. At this point, the Normans adopted the use of the stirrup, either from the Bulgarians or the Byzantines, which revolutionized their fighting ability on horseback. This led to the development of the “motte and bailey” which thwarts the attack of mounted soldiers. The keep would replace the motte starting in the mid-eleventh century, as represented by the White Tower at the Tower of London dated to 1075. Decades earlier, according to Anna Komnene (1083–1153), the Normans were employed by the Byzantines during their wars with the Hamdanid Emirate and Seljuk tribes and would have encountered both Byzantine and Armenian citadels that were essentially “magna turres” or “keeps”.  Good examples of early Byzantine donjons are Saone Castle in Syria (dated to 975) and Niketiaton Castle (Eskihisar, Turkey) (which I date to the early eleventh century). The final type–the “concentric castle”–appears after the Second Crusade (1147–1149) which corresponds to castles built during the development of the Latin States. My preliminary report can be found in my MA dissertation entitled “Medieval Loopholes” (2000) located at the University of York.

Timeline of  Research and Fieldwork

2015      Studied the fabric and design of the churches of Sveti Georgi, Boyana, and Sveta Sofia, as well as the Byzantine fortification of Sofia, Bulgaria.

2014      Analyzed Roman and Byzantine sculpture and architecture in Italy, especially the Colossus of Barletta, Molfetta and Bari Cathedrals, Ognissanti (Valenzano), San Leucio (Canosa), Sant’Ilario and Santa Sofia (Benevento).

2013      Surveyed the classical and medieval sculptures in museums along the Baltic Sea, primarily in Copenhagen, Talinn, St. Petersburg, and Stockholm. Analyzed classical and medieval sculptures in museums in Athens and the island of Paros (Greece), as well as Byzantine churches, especially Agios Dionysios Areopagitis (Agora), Agios Eleftherios, Daphni monastery, and the Panagia Ekatontapiliani.

2009-12   Summers researching in Cyprus.

2006-2008  Research Fellow, Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute, Nicosia (Cyprus). Research conducted in Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Britain.

2005    Research Resident, Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute, Nicosia (Cyprus). Supplemental research conducted in Israel, France, and Great Britain.

2005-2006   Provenance Researcher, Indiana University Art Museum, Indiana University Bloomington. Researched collection history (Ancient and Byzantine).

2001-2002  Researcher, Saint-Lazare and Saint-Nazaire Cathédrale Excavations (L’Equipe d’Archéologique) in Autun (Saône-et-Loire) France, directed by Professors Walter Berry and Sylvie Balcon (Université de Paris IV). Early Medieval cathedral complex. Supplemental research conducted in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. [S. Balcon-Berry and W. Berry. “Autun (Saône-et-Loire). Étude archéologique du cloître canonial de Saint-Nazaire,” BUCEMA 8 (2004): 1-4.]

1999-2000   Gothic Castle Survey, University of York. France, England, Wales, and Ireland. Dolforwyn Castle Excavations, Montgomery, Wales, directed by Professor Lawrence Butler. [L. Butler and J. Knight. Dolforwyn Castle, Montgomery Castle (Cardiff: Cadw, 2004)]

1998   Participated in the fieldwork at the Tarbat Discovery Programme, Portahomack (Ross), Scotland, directed by Professor Martin Carver. Excavations of a 7th-8th century Pictish monastery and field survey of early medieval sculpture. [M. Carver. Portmahomack: Monastery of the Picts (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2008)]

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