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Housing and the Village Landscape in the Byzantine Mani


This dissertation examines the form and use of space within Byzantine villages in the Mani peninsula, the southernmost point of the Greek Peloponnese. Because of the use of stone in the construction of houses, churches, threshing floors, cisterns and other agricultural features, the preservation of settlements is excellent despite centuries of abandonment. Focusing on the domestic and secular features of settlements, I document and map the built features of villages to preserve their history, even as the buildings deteriorate. I interpret the built elements through spatial analysis, social history and information provided by local residents about the histories of each settlement. I selected the two primary villages in this dissertation, Marathos and Sarania, to provide examples of settlements from the same region located in different physical settings. Central to my study is the examination of how topography affects village development. I also study the fortified settlement at Tigani, the center of government control in the region. I examined the domestic architecture from this site in order to see how it relates and differentiates itself from that of the surrounding countryside. I aggregated and examined data on house design and size as well as settlement layout in order to provide conclusions about the form of domestic architecture and the use of space within the village. I identify the importance of topography and regional characteristics as critical factors in the form and appearance of buildings.

Using two well-preserved, abandoned villages in the Mani as a foundation, and including the study of the administrative center at Tigani, my dissertation examines the relationship of villages to the landscape, to each other, and to proximate urban centers, placing a micro study within a much broader context. I use the data obtained from mapping to test multiple hypotheses about use, access, and function. My project aims not only to gain an understanding of the villages of the medieval Mani, but also to construct a model for future studies on the built environment of rural settlements.

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