Sicily and Crete between Byzantium and the Dar Al-Islam (Late 7th - Mid 10th Century): an archaeological contribution
Randazzo, Matteo G.
Focusing on the Byzantine-Islamic transitions of Sicily and Crete, the aim of this thesis is to contribute to the archaeological debate surrounding the development of both islands between the late 7th and mid-10th century. Material sources have been the primary means of investigation, drawing especially on ceramic evidence, selected small finds, especially coins and lead seals, and relevant examples of built environment, which have encompassed a range of domestic, military, and religious contexts. Original arguments and data-collection have been produced through both revaluating the findings and conclusions of current secondary literature, and by drawing on first-hand studies of unpublished material sources and evidence documented during archive-based studies and field observations. Changing patterns in material culture and settlement organisation, and the modes of administrative and economic interactions between incoming Muslim rulers and pre-existing Byzantine communities inhabiting both islands have been the main fields of enquiry. Although taking a regional perspective, this thesis has been based on key case-study sites, of which Knossos and Heraklion, and Enna and its hinterland, are the principal ones. The Byzantine-Islamic transition of Sicily and Crete might appear as a peripheral topic to the eyes of scholars working in core territories of the Byzantine and Islamic empires. When considered within their actual geographical and cultural contexts, however, both islands stand at the virtual and spatial centre of the military and ideological confrontation between Byzantium and the Dar al-Islam. Placed at the crossroads between Constantinople, Cordoba, Mecca, and Baghdad, both islands acted as sociocultural and economic lynchpins between the western and eastern halves of the Mediterranean world, but also as maritime frontier-lands located at the fringe between the worlds of Islam and Byzantium.