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Seclusion on the Thracian Mountains: Kuzulu Rock-cut Hermitage near Vize

A series of rock-cut complexes are located on the carbonate rock series on the Strandzha massif in eastern Thrace, lying between the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, and medieval Bulgaria. Lacking a written history almost entirely, these monuments suffer from the same neglect as many other examples of rock-carved architecture in Byzantium. As a result, most of them have escaped the earlier scholarly attention, or only barely mentioned in the survey reports. My presentation will focus on the rock-cut hermitage near the modern village of Kuzulu, 15 km north of the Kırklareli city center; I will present and discuss the archaeological material, as well as its inherent problems.  In 2017, Skopelos (Polos-Kalesi/Yoguntas) Survey Project team, of which I was a member, conducted an archaeological survey at the site. The rupestrian complex, consisting of a small barrel-vaulted church and several adjoining cells, is hewn out on the southern side of a hill at the northern end of the valley. A small fortified settlement crowns the hilltop, only circa 250 m away from the hermitage. The architectural documentation and on-site observations enable me to reconstruct, to some extent, the life in the rock-cut hermitage and its relation to the surrounding landscape with the nearby fortification. In my study, I make use of both in-situ material and hagiographical literature that sheds light on the monastic life in the region. Kuzulu is one of the thirteen sites in eastern Thrace that I examine in my dissertation project to contextualize and relate to the medieval settlement patterns in the region.

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