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Multidisciplinary approaches to food and foodways in the medieval Eastern Mediterranean

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Sylvie Yona Waksman

Byzantium and beyond

The composition of church festive meals in a medieval Christian community in the southern Crimea, based on ceramics and faunal materials

Iryna Teslenko

Résumé

This report presents the materials from the excavations of a medieval church located at the top of the Tuzluk Hill in the Yedi Evler area, Crimean peninsula, near the village of Semidvorie (Alushta, Crimea, Ukraine). The excavations were carried out by the Mountain-Crimean Archaeological Expedition (Crimean Branch of Archaeological Institute, NAS of Ukraine) in 2007. This church was linked to a large agricultural and pottery-producing settlement. It was in use from the first half of the 9th to the first half of the 10th century. It was initially a double-apse building belonging to a relatively rare type of church of the Middle Byzantine period. Around 860-880 it was completely rebuilt and became an ordinary rural Byzantine church with one apse and one nave.
Thanks to careful excavations and the involvement of a professional team of researchers for post-excavation studies, many liturgical features and elements of everyday life characteristic of Byzantine rural churches could be recorded and studied. In particular, it became possible to localize the places of community festivities and to determine the composition of church festive meals.
The meals included wine, which would have been delivered to the table in local amphorae, as well as a variety of birds, mammals, marine mollusks, land snails, and a few fish. On special occasions, probably associated with the sanctuary’s consecration after its construction and reconstruction, oxen were sacrificed.

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 Crimean Branch of Archaeological Institute, National Ukrainian Academy of Science.

1At the end of the last century and in the first decade of this century the Mountain-Crimean Archaeological Expedition of CB AI NUAS1 carried out archaeological explorations in the Alushta region in southern Crimea. As a result, nearly three dozen sites of the Middle Byzantine period were discovered. The settlements were mainly large and rural, dating from the second half of the 8th-beginning of the 9th century to the first half of the 10th century and located in river valleys by the southern slopes of Crimean Mountains; their emergence is associated with new waves of migration from territories (presumably Asia Minor) held under the protection of the Byzantine Empire (e.g. Teslenko & Musin 2015, pp. 7‑8, 309).

The excavation context

2One of the sites in the Yedi Evler valley near the village of Semidvorie (Alushta, Crimea, Ukraine) was investigated in more detail (fig. 1). It was discovered that the Yedi Evler area was inhabited during the Late Bronze Age, the Early Iron Age, as well as later in the Middle Ages, beginning at least in the 7th century AD. From the second half of the 8th-beginning of the 9th century to the first half of the 10th century there existed large agricultural settlement areas of not less than 5 hectares, with two pottery production centers and two or three Christian churches (Lysenko & Teslenko 2012). In 2007 one of the sanctuaries at the top of Tuzluk Hill was excavated by our team (fig. 1: 8).

Fig. 1 – Map of the Medieval archaeological sites in the Yedi Evler valley, near Semidvirie village, southern Crimea.

Fig. 1 – Map of the Medieval archaeological sites in the Yedi Evler valley, near Semidvirie village, southern Crimea.

3During the excavations, the remains of a double-apse church were found (fig. 2: 1, 2). It belongs to a relatively rare type of church of the Middle Byzantine period that could be described as a two-apse church with unequal apses of different size that have no exact analogies elsewhere in Crimea. The closest parallel is the 10th-11th century double-apse church in the upper city of the Middle Byzantine settlement at Boğazköy (Hattusa, Asia Minor) (e.g. Neve 1984).

Fig. 2 – Double-apse church at the top of Tuzluk Hill: (1) excavated remains of the church, view from southwest; (2) general plan of the church; (3) first period of church life (mid‑9th century, 860 to 880 AD), schematic plan; (4) second period of church life (860-880 to the first half of the 10th century), schematic plan.

Fig. 2 – Double-apse church at the top of Tuzluk Hill: (1) excavated remains of the church, view from southwest; (2) general plan of the church; (3) first period of church life (mid‑9th century, 860 to 880 AD), schematic plan; (4) second period of church life (860-880 to the first half of the 10th century), schematic plan.

4The temple was built approximately in the second third, perhaps the middle, of the 9th century and ceased to exist in the first half or at the beginning of the 10th century, so it functioned for about 100 (± 20‑25) years. During the short period of its history, the church was completely rebuilt at least once between 860 and 880. After reconstruction the northern compartment was covered by earth and stones, and the sanctuary became an ordinary rural Byzantine one-apse, one-nave church, which after destruction in the first half of the 10th century was not restored (fig. 2: 3, 4).

  • 2 The main results of this research were recently published in a collective work edited by I. Teslen (...)

5Among the excavated materials there are ceramic finds, glass lamp fragments, metal ex-voto crosses, other objects, and faunal remains (fig. 3). The study of the archaeological finds and deposits, conducted by a team of specialists in different fields of science (archaeology, architecture, liturgy, archaeozoology, chemistry), has resulted in important conclusions concerning the history of the church and the people who created it (Teslenko & Musin 2015).2

Fig. 3 – Church on the Tuzluk Hill, location of kitchen remains and pottery fragments: (1, 3‑5) first period of church life (3, 4. northern compartment, 5. southern compartment); (2) second period of church life.

Fig. 3 – Church on the Tuzluk Hill, location of kitchen remains and pottery fragments: (1, 3‑5) first period of church life (3, 4. northern compartment, 5. southern compartment); (2) second period of church life.

6In addition to providing information concerning building skills, material culture, liturgical features, etc., the materials from the archaeological layers contain interesting data on numerous animal sacrifices and the composition of church festive meals prepared and consumed by the local Christian community.

Faunal remains

  • 3 Institute of Zoology, National Ukrainian Academy of Science, Kiev.
  • 4 Palaeontological Museum of National Science and Natural History Museum of NUAS, Kiev.
  • 5 Taurida Academy, V.I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University, Department of ecology and zoology, Sim (...)

7The analysis of the faunal finds, carried out by researchers from Kiev and Simferopol, Dr G. Gavris,3 Dr V. Logvinenko,4 and Dr S. Leonov,5 indicate a fairly extensive range of species and therefore a varied diet, which included birds, mammals, marine mollusks, land snails and some fish. It is worth noting that of the total number of the skeletal remains (11,600 fragments), only about 10% could be attributed. The rest are highly fragmented as a result of human consumption, making identification impossible.

8Among the mammals, it was possible to identify the species of 139 bone fragments, which belonged to 23 individuals. The animals favored were sheep (Ovis aries) and goats (Capra hircus) (74% of certain bones and teeth, 14 individuals), slaughtered under the age of 1 year. In second place are the remains of pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) (16% of certain bone fragments of 4 individuals), aged around 2 years and 5‑6 months. A small number (about 6%) are bones of hares, from three individuals (Lepus europaeus), and the lowest percentage (about 2%) consists of ox bones (Bos Taurus) belonging to one or two individuals, slaughtered at the age of 1.5 to 2 years.

9Birds are present in an absolute majority. There are 390 identified fragments, which belong to 155 individuals of 19 species. The main species is chicken – Gallus domesticus and Gallus domesticus sm., predominantly females (78%). An insignificant quantity of bones comes from wild birds, mainly hunted species, among which the bustard (Otis tarda) prevails.

10Among the marine mollusks, mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) were the main species eaten near the church (95% of 1,900 identified fragments). Other mollusks (Patella ulyssiponensis, Ostrea lamellose, Eriphia spinifrons) are present in small numbers. For example the oysters, so popular in other regions of Crimea (e.g. Yanish 2015), make up not more than 1% of the finds (18‑20 examples). It is possible that the coast near the mouth of the Yedi Evler valley was not a favorable habitat for them. Besides shellfish, 8 claw fragments from 4 or 5 crabs were found. Terrestrial gastropods are mainly represented by Helix albescens (about 72%). It is quite interesting to note that fish are almost absent in the collection, and thus presumably absent on the tables of people of the parish who lived along the sea coast. Only 11 bones of sturgeon and sea bass (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii and Perciformes) were recorded.

11Thus, according to the evidence, two-thirds of the church festive meals of the Christian community of the Yedi Evler area consisted of chickens, mostly hens. Also significant in the meals were mussels and snails, which could be produced in Crimea throughout the year. A less significant portion consisted of the hunted species of migratory birds, most of them consumed only during the autumn-winter-spring period. The ox was an exception. Its remains were found near the western and southern entrances to the church, and may be primarily linked to rituals of dedication of the church after its construction and reconstruction. As is known, in rural Greek communities this animal was usually offered as a sacrifice when sanctuaries were consecrated (e.g. Musin 2015, pp. 299‑301). Sheep, goats and pigs, as seen in the low quantities of their remains, were also not numerous in the local diet, but they appeared on the table more often than ox. Probably, in most cases, the meat courses were cooked only for significant events, such as major church feasts. It appears that fish were not popular in festive meals. The predominance of small ungulates and poultry, as well as the availability of hunted species such as boar, is clear among the kitchen remains near other medieval Christian sanctuaries in Crimea, such as near the church on Gurzuf Saddle mountain pass (Novichenkova 2001, p. 5), but more detailed information has not yet been published.

Pottery

12The local festive diet was not limited to animal protein. Other products were brought to the church in ceramic vessels, primarily in amphorae and pots, fragments of which were found in the cultural layers inside and outside the church, dating to both the first and second periods of its use (fig. 3).

13The fragments of at least 13‑15 amphorae, one flask and some two dozen cooking pots were present among the cultural remains of the church inside and outside the building (fig. 3). For example, three partially reconstructed amphorae and the bottom of a pot come from the northern compartment. The fragments were concentrated near the large flat stone, which has been interpreted as a Prothesis table, and were probably there at the time of the destruction.

14All of these wares are of local origin. The amphorae belong to the so-called “Black Sea type” (predominantly a second variant) (fig. 4: 1), and were produced in the numerous large pottery workshops of southern Crimea over a period of 100‑150 years or slightly more (from the second half of the 8th century to the first quarter or middle of the 10th century) and were widespread on the peninsula, neighboring territories, and farther into the north and northwest including the Volga and Dnieper regions (e.g. Parshina et al. 2001, pp. 76‑77; Gertzen et al. 2006, pp. 399‑400; Naumenko 2009, pp. 43‑47).

Fig. 4 – Church on the Tuzluk Hill, pottery from cultural remains: (1) local amphorae of so-called “Black Sea type”; (2) local kitchen ware.

Fig. 4 – Church on the Tuzluk Hill, pottery from cultural remains: (1) local amphorae of so-called “Black Sea type”; (2) local kitchen ware.

15The kitchen pots are also quite typical for local household pottery of provincial Byzantine influence (fig. 4: 2) and have many parallels among kitchen wares in the pottery assemblages of southern Crimea dating to the 9th-beginning of the 10th century (e.g. Naumenko 1997, pp. 336‑338; 2009, pp. 60‑64; Gertzen et al. 2006, pp. 406‑407; 2010, pp. 257‑258, 263, 267).

  • 6 The production centers for such jugs have not yet been identified. There are a number of morpholog (...)

16There is a fragment of only one large ceramic vessel that can be defined as an import, possibly from the region of Taman.6 This is the bottom of a high-necked brown clay jug with wide flat handles (fig. 5: 3), similar in shape to the so-called “large one-handled jug” or “tall one-handled jug” described by J.W. Hayes (1992, pp. 125, 223, fig. 21: 3; fig. 71: 53). It was immured into the altar in the southern compartment and would hardly have been used for food in such a context.

Fig. 5 – Church on the Tuzluk Hill, pottery from cultural remains: (1) local red fabric jugs, plates and bowl; (2) glazed jug of Constantinople origin, group Glazed White Ware II; (3) import “tall one-handled jug” of unknown origin, possibly from Taman.

Fig. 5 – Church on the Tuzluk Hill, pottery from cultural remains: (1) local red fabric jugs, plates and bowl; (2) glazed jug of Constantinople origin, group Glazed White Ware II; (3) import “tall one-handled jug” of unknown origin, possibly from Taman.

17Small domestic and table wares are less common in the sanctuary. The highly fragmented remains of not more than a dozen and a half small red-fabric jugs, 2 plates and 1 bowl were found there (fig. 5: 1). They are also mainly of local production, except for a small glazed jug of Constantinople origin that belongs to the so-called Glazed White Ware II (Hayes 1992, pp. 18‑19) (fig. 5: 2). The finds are concentrated in the southern compartment, so it can be assumed that these vessels could have been used for votive offerings.

18Some of the vessels for communal feasts could have been made of wood, and thus are not preserved.

19It is difficult to determine the products that were contained in these vessels, because the chemical analyses of the sherds have not yet been carried out. But the amphorae were most probably used for wine. It is known that during the period under study the settlement in the Yedi Evler valley, like many other rural settlements in southern Crimea, specialized in grape cultivation and winemaking (e.g. Teslenko & Musin 2015, pp. 308‑309). It is thus logical to assume that a culture of wine consumption developed there, and festive meals would hardly have occurred without wine.

Location of the festive meals

20Finally, it would be interesting to answer the question, where did the communal meals take place? For the first and second periods of the life of this church, the feasts occurred in different locations.

21During the first period the feasts probably took place in the northern part of the building, because a considerable number of broken amphorae, pots, glass and faunal remains had accumulated around the flat stone (Prothesis table) in the northern compartment (fig. 3: 1, 3, 4). According to Dr A. Musin, a specialist in ancient liturgy, the fact that offerings of gifts for the Eucharist and ordinary meals took place in the same location in the northern part of the church demonstrates a kind of syncretism of liturgical and popular rituals.

22During the last period, when the northern compartment was buried, significant parts of the kitchen remains were concentrated near the southern entrance to the sanctuary, which became the main doorway (fig. 3: 2). There was also a special place for making “liturgical fire” before the beginning of public worship.

23For both the first and second periods, most of the animal bones and of the fragments of small ceramic vessels found in the southern compartment, as well as the metal crosses, would be the remains of votive offerings.

Conclusion

  • 7 This parallel may suggest that the flat stone in the northern part of the Yedi Evler church, apart (...)

24To summarize, it should be noted that the practice of animal sacrifice together with parish meals was widely employed in Byzantine popular religion, the so-called “parish Orthodoxy”. In spite of proscriptions against such practices, which can be found in canon law, it was regarded as a norm in society, and even hagiographical texts, for example the Life of Saint Nicolas of Sion in Asia Minor, recount such rituals without any condemnation. Rituals of animal sacrifice are also known in the northern Caucasus, Transcaucasia, and the Balkans, and known ethnographically to have persisted until the beginning of the 20th century, as well as in several regions up to the present day (e.g. Musin 2015, pp. 300‑301). For example, in the Farassa area (Cappadocia, modern Feke, Adana province) in Turkey, the rituals of animal sacrifice in the Greek parish were recorded in the church opposite the main altar on a large stone (e.g. Burkert 1983; 1997).7 This tradition, as well as “Byzantine popular Orthodoxy”, was brought into southern Crimea probably by Byzantine Greeks, the immigrants who founded numerous settlements there in the 8‑9th centuries, and the tradition merged harmoniously with the earlier sacred customs and rituals that existed (Lysenko 2012). Despite the fact that due to various economic and political reasons most of these settlements ceased to exist in the first half of the 10th century, the tradition of church sacrifices and communal meals continued among local Christians for a long time and was interrupted only because of their resettlement to Azov and the Black Sea steppes in 1778‑1780, after the conquest of Crimea by Russia. There is evidence that migrants from southern Crimea practiced animal sacrifices after building churches in new places. For example, people from Alushta and 4 surrounding villages brought as a gift for a new church on the day of its consecration in 1780 a herd of sheep and 200 head of cattle, upon which the last Gothic Metropolitan Ignatius gave their new village a magnificent name – Constantinople (Bertie-Delagard 1920, pp. 6‑10). Ethnographic observations confirm the persistence of the practice of church sacrifices and communal meals among the immigrants up to the 19th-20th centuries. The Greeks living in the Kuban region sacrificed young oxen, rams or cocks for St. George in the hope of healing illness or in gratitude (Raevskaya 1996, p. 124). In Crimea the echoes of this Christian tradition were preserved only in the later local legends of the Crimean Tatars (Lysenko 2012). Today sacred rites of sacrifice and the communal meals that follow take place in the name of Allah on the feast of Kurban-Bairam (Eid al‑Adha), still one of the most important festive occasions among the local Muslims. Apparently the combination of a feast dedicated to higher powers, which may affect private and communal life, with the sensual pleasure of an abundant meal fits harmoniously into the lives of ordinary people, whatever the type of cultural environment with which they may identify themselves, and whatever gods they worship.

Acknowledgments

25I would like to thank the team that excavated in the Yedi Evler area and all the scientists who worked with the materials, especially Dr A. Musin, Dr V. Kirilko, Dr G. Gavris, Dr V. Logvinenko, Dr S. Leonov, Dr V. Chabai, A. Lysenko and others, whose individual studies and useful advice enabled the extraction of valuable information from the variety of excavated data.

Bibliographie

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Notes

1 Crimean Branch of Archaeological Institute, National Ukrainian Academy of Science.

2 The main results of this research were recently published in a collective work edited by I. Teslenko & A. Musin (2015) (www.archeo.ru/izdaniya-1/vagnejshije-izdanija/pdf/Semidvorie_2015.pdf, accessed 10/12/2019).

3 Institute of Zoology, National Ukrainian Academy of Science, Kiev.

4 Palaeontological Museum of National Science and Natural History Museum of NUAS, Kiev.

5 Taurida Academy, V.I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University, Department of ecology and zoology, Simferopol.

6 The production centers for such jugs have not yet been identified. There are a number of morphological and technological variants, which could have been made in different workshops in the Black Sea region.

7 This parallel may suggest that the flat stone in the northern part of the Yedi Evler church, apart from its Prothesis function, could have also served for archaic sacrifice.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Map of the Medieval archaeological sites in the Yedi Evler valley, near Semidvirie village, southern Crimea.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/10214/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 975k
Titre Fig. 2 – Double-apse church at the top of Tuzluk Hill: (1) excavated remains of the church, view from southwest; (2) general plan of the church; (3) first period of church life (mid‑9th century, 860 to 880 AD), schematic plan; (4) second period of church life (860-880 to the first half of the 10th century), schematic plan.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/10214/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 660k
Titre Fig. 3 – Church on the Tuzluk Hill, location of kitchen remains and pottery fragments: (1, 3‑5) first period of church life (3, 4. northern compartment, 5. southern compartment); (2) second period of church life.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/10214/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,4M
Titre Fig. 4 – Church on the Tuzluk Hill, pottery from cultural remains: (1) local amphorae of so-called “Black Sea type”; (2) local kitchen ware.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/10214/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,5M
Titre Fig. 5 – Church on the Tuzluk Hill, pottery from cultural remains: (1) local red fabric jugs, plates and bowl; (2) glazed jug of Constantinople origin, group Glazed White Ware II; (3) import “tall one-handled jug” of unknown origin, possibly from Taman.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/10214/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,6M

Auteur

Institute of Archaeology, National Ukrainian Academy of Science, 12 Geroiv Stalingradu St., Kiev, 04210, Ukraine, iryna_teslenko@hotmail.com

Acheter

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