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“Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains”: for an environmental history of Byzantine Anatolia

At its core, environmental history is the study of a reciprocal relationship between that of humanity and its environment.  The incorporation of environmental science to Byzantine studies has been gradual and has received merit only in the last decade. The goal of this paper is to use the ancient site of Sagalassos in the Antique to Early Byzantine periods as a case study to represent the multi-faceted benefits of incorporating environmental science in recreating a historical narrative. The focus of this paper is on utilizing the existing palynological and zooarchaeological evidence at Sagalassos to provide informative insight where archaeological and narrative sources are lacking. The most abundant environmental data available at Sagalassos are three drilled cores of the Gravgaz, Bereket and Çanaklı marshes and the investigation of a large collection of faunal remains on the site. The use of palynological data at Sagalassos shows that while narratives based primarily on archaeological and ceramic evidence indicate a decline of  the city in the 4th and 6th centuries, pollen records indicate continuation and stability. Similarly, zooarcheological records show that social changes at Sagalassos can also be visible through livestock selection and this reveals a transformation of the function of the city from a production center to a more pastoral economy. The study has found that while the 4th century does witness a reduction in monumental building, the rebuilding programs and the presence of continued arboriculture indicate stability at Sagalassos. Similarly, while a 6th century earthquake does damage to some infrastructure in the city, the city still continues with its productive and pastoral functions until the mid-7th century when a larger earthquake relocates its inhabitants.

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