top of page

Material Culture in Byzantine Archaeology at the End of the 19th Century: The Imperial Russian Archaeological Society Excavations at Ani

The second half of the 19th century marked, on the one hand, the beginning of the development in archaeological scientific methodology with the focus on stratigraphic excavations, small finds and plain artefacts, sequence dating, rigorous recording and publication of the results. On the other hand, Byzantine studies in many countries, including the Russian Empire, only began to form as an academic discipline and were conducted primarily within art historical and philological frameworks. In this paper I will address the methodology applied at Ani excavations (1892-1893, 1904-1917) initiated by the Imperial Russian Archaeological Society and conducted by an orientalist Nikolai Marr, who helped to reorganize the Imperial Archaeological Commission into the Russian Academy of the History of Material Culture and in 1919 became its first chairman. Although Ani campaigns were oriented by written sources, they represent a breakaway from antiquarian tradition of the 19th century in the Caucasian and Byzantine archaeology. The scope of my current inquiry involves written records of the Ani campaigns, including biographies and memoirs of the participants, and archival photographs available in digital format. My discussion will be based on the examination of the methods of fieldwork, recording, and analysis, as well as on the approach applied by the excavation team to object collection and display. Finally, I will comment the place of Ani excavations in the national museum doctrine of the period and their role in awakening the historical consciousness of local populations.

bottom of page