Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Project title: Changing Concepts of Landscape between Mediterranean and Arid Regions in the Roman-Byzantine Levant
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Heide Frielinghaus, Prof. Dr. Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser
The present dissertation project “Changing Concepts of Landscape between Mediterranean and Desert in the Roman and Byzantine Levant” (Working title) was developed within the framework of the Research Training Group 1876 “Early Concepts of Humans and Nature: Universal, Specific, Interchanged”. The work is located in the Department of Classical Archaeology at the Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz, where it is supervised by Prof. Dr. Heide Frielinghaus. Following the leitmotiv of the Research Training Group an interdisciplinary approach including archaeological and bio-archaeological data as well as written and pictorial sources, will be applied to investigate how people in the Levant used the physical environments around them and transformed them into landscapes with social, historical and emotional meaning. The work focuses on the period from the 1st century AD, when Roman influence increased in the area, to the Arab Conquest in the 7th century that led to the downfall of many settlements. Even today, a large part of our identity is anchoring in the landscapes surrounding us. As can be seen, geological features, climate, animals and plants of a specific region are often packed with social, cultural and symbolic meaning that connects people to their natural environment. Although these features are present for all to see, they are used and perceived differently at different times. This subjectivity makes it even more difficult if we want to reconstruct the meaning physical environments had for past populations. The Levant with its various climatic and geological features in a relatively small area, reaching from the mountainous Carmel region in the north to the arid Negev Desert in the South, provides the perfect research platform to investigate human-environmental-relations in antiquity. Since the region has always been a cultural patchwork and was affected by successive political and religious changes, especially between Roman and Early Islamic times, it is to be expected that differences and shifts in landscape concepts should become visible in the archaeological and historical record. Three research areas, which can be clearly distinguished climatically and geological, will form the core of the work: The Carmel Mountains, the Negev Desert and the Galilee region. Based on the resources available in the natural areas – water, space, animals, plants and abiotic resources – potential uses are identified. In a further step, the actual use of these parameters and its significance are reconstructed from the archaeological material, bio-archaeological investigations and the written sources. In this way, intraregional differences in human-environmental relations at different times are to be identified and interregional differences between the natural areas are to be compared.