Reading history from and into a montane cultural landscape: the case of Zagori, NW Greece
In my project, I focus on the archaeological landscape of Zagori in NW Greece (15th – late 19th centuries). This mountainous area consists of many medium sized and small villages surrounded by cliffs, gorges and rivers, in what is perceived by contemporary visitors as a majestic natural landscape, being a National Park and a designated UNESCO Geopark. Most of these villages flourished during the period when the Ottoman Empire ruled Epirus (especially the 17th-early 20th c.) due to the large mobility of their male population throughout the Balkan peninsula, but especially in Wallachia (Romania). As merchants and specialists (doctors, bakers, etc.), the émigrés earned and brought back to their households the surplus needed to achieve subsistence in this demanding mountainous environment. Social competition between the economically powerful and philanthropy led to the creation of majestic houses and communal infrastructure developments (such as schools, churches and bridges). Thus, today this area is promoted as an area with rich cultural history (the traditional Zagori villages) and magnificent natural landscapes (Vikos-Aoos national park & Geopark), drawing an artificial distinction between nature and culture that precludes historical understanding of either.
Aims of the project
The aim of this project is to record and trace the tangible and intangible human footprint in the wider landscape of Zagori. From local routes, recorded in archives in the form of taskscapes (after Ingold 1993 – temporality of landscape), to culturally appropriated natural resources (managed trees, liminal points between communities, etc.), traces of human activity are widespread in the (now forested) landscape. These footprints are to a great extent the product of engendered labour, since women worked the fields while men migrated seasonally to Wallachia and other parts of the Ottoman Empire. Threshing floors, agricultural terraces, watermills, clearance cairns, kilns, etc. are scattered in a landscape that is today largely perceived by people to be virgin forest, yet is the product of the last 50 years of abandonment of previous centuries-old agro-pastoral activities.
As a result, this project is an effort to use landscape archaeology to bridge the disciplinary gap between archival history and social anthropology and to “read” history through the material remains of the Zagori cultural landscape and evaluate the dialectics of the use of space for the period of Ottoman Empire, combining different and varying methodologies.
- Primary sources evaluation (Ottoman registries; local archives): reconstruction of settlement pattern; population estimation; resource evaluation; labour division; household organisation.
- GIS based spatial analysis and database creation: to visualise the spatial relations.
- Extended fieldwork (oriented to landscape archaeology & ethnography)