Quantitative analysis of the Early Christian churches of Central Lycia
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
Since the publication of R. Martin Harrison’s seminal work, ‘Churches and chapels of Central Lycia’ in 1963, numerous scholars have focused on the region, attracted by the large number of extant remains. From large-scale surveys, such as The Tübingen Lycia Project and Tabula Imperii Byzantini, to site-focused archaeological examinations (such as Morganstern 1983, Hohlfelder 2005, and ed. Akyürek 2017), researchers have long endeavoured to understand the architectural development and influence of the churches through the lens of comparative architectural analysis, both within Lycia as well as in a wider context. This thesis brings a new perspective: by employing methodologies based on cultural evolution, or 'descent with modification' (Mesoudi 2016), it is possible to consider the architectural development of these ecclesiastical structures in a different light. In archaeology this method is applied to artefacts through the study of cultural traits, 'units of transmission that permit diffusion and create traditions' (O'Brien et al. 2010). Often, researchers use common, easily reproducible artefacts, but by switching from the micro-scale of artefacts to the macro-scale of large, architectural constructions, it is possible to consider architectural structures as these units of transmission (Jordan & O’Neill 2010). This thesis analyses the cultural traits of the 162 Christian churches of Central Lycia, through data collected from 44 sources. Through exploratory data analysis and nearest neighbour analysis, it answers four primary questions: 1) Is there quantitative evidence for a temporal change in the cultural and geographic traits of the churches of Central Lycia, 2) Are there different patterns in church building between the three sub-regions of Central Lycia. 3) Do churches with synthronons have a specific, unique function, and 4) Are churches with a triconch apse related to St. Nicholas of Holy Sion. Question one has been analysed through the lens of traits that directly relate to current theories on temporal change: nave area, construction technique, apse shape, and geographic location. Both questions three and four consider the relationship between presence of a synthronon or triconch apse and other cultural traits, including location-based analysis. Finally, any regional differences are discussed in the analysis of the above three questions. Based on the results of these tests, this thesis suggests that unlike the arguments put forth in previous modern scholarship, Central Lycia does not see a religious decline, but rather that it sees a shift in accessibility to Christianity; these smaller churches indicate not only a stronger community relationship to the church, but also an interest in worship over-elaborate architectural designs.