Syriac Villages in the Tur Abdin: A Microhistory of the Medieval Middle East


Marica Cassis
University of Calgary

While scholarly work on the churches of the Tur Abdin dates back to the work of Gertrude Bell, and subsequently continued off and on through the twentieth century, the focus of most research has consistently been the churches in the region. However, churches are the heart of communities, whether villages or monasteries, and need to be considered as part of the whole. What has not been considered in detail is the importance of contextualizing churches in the villages and cities in the region, both in terms of the material remains and the literary sources. This paper is meant to start a discussion about the significance of colonialism in the study of this region, the importance of microhistory in understanding archaeological material, and the overall underdiscussed material present in the Tur Abdin.

Marica Cassis specializes in the Late Roman, Byzantine, and Syriac past in Anatolia, and did her PhD in Byzantine and Syriac studies at the University of Toronto in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. Since then she has worked at SUNY Cortland, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and is now the Head of Classics and Religion at the University of Calgary.

Her work currently focuses on two areas. First, she is the director of the SSHRC funded Byzantine excavations at Çadır Höyük, a multi-period site in Yozgat province Turkey. Work at the site is following the evolution of a small agricultural and defensive site in Anatolia from the Roman period through to the arrival of the Seljuk Turks. It is one of the few sites in Anatolia that is able to follow the continuous occupation of sites in the rural late Roman and Byzantine hinterland. She also works on the intersection of colonialism, orientalism, and gender theory with Byzantine and Syriac archaeology, considering new ways of reconsidering the material to provide a more nuanced view of the past.

This lecture will take place live on ZOOM, followed by a question and answer period. Please register to receive the Zoom link.  


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