Mapping the French Surveys of Bithynia Online

Since the 1980s, two French research programs have been dedicated to the Byzantine region of Bithynia (Turkey), which extends from the southern shore of the Marmara Sea to Mount Olympus (Uludağ), and from the lake of Apollonias to the the river Sangarios.

The first program was initiated by Jacques Lefort at the École pratique des hautes études (Paris) between 1987 and 1994. The results were published in an interdisciplinary volume gathering 19 studies, with the title La Bithynie au Moyen Âge(2003). It documents abundant archaeological material found on the sites (architectural blocks, ceramics, inscriptions), and contains paleo-geographic, topographic and economic studies up to the Ottoman times. As a result of this outstanding body of work, nearly 2,000 photographs, video recordings, and studies on written sources (e.g. travellers’ books) have been archived in Paris, all of which could not all be included in a single printed volume. The goal of the book was to study the evolution of the Bithynian landscape and society, not to record all medieval remains in Bithynia. Only the sites that had been actually surveyed feature on the final map. A lot of information gathered during the preparatory work was thus left unused for the time being.

A second programme supervised by Marie-France Auzépy (Université Paris VIII) began in 2004, was funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 2005 and 2008, and ended with a study of the inventory of the museum of Bursa (2009), since the working permits were not renewed by the Turkish authorities. The surveys intended to set up an inventory of preserved medieval monuments in Bithynia around Mount Olympus, focusing on monasteries in particular. The results were published each year in Anatolia Antiqua, the journal of the French Institute of Anatolian Studies in Istanbul, and are now available online. Abundant reports were compiled and sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since 2012, they have been available on the scientific platform Hal-SHS. The team regularly presented its work at the annual meetings of archaeologists working in Turkey (Araştırma Sonuçları Toplantısı). But again, with almost 500 written pages and thousands of photographs taken on site, the survey is still not fully available since the documentary material that was discovered was too abounding to be fully published in print and, beside, went far beyond the subject of Byzantine monasteries themselves.

The rapid advances in digital mapping have now reshuffled the cards. This technology can help us to present our field observations online, in a scientific, collaborative and sustainable way. This site will present the results of French surveys in Bithynia, as it will outline the important issue of such a process for the preservation of the Turkish heritage. 

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