Doctoral Dissertation Research: Colonization and Social Interaction in Early Medieval Southeastern Austria
Tina Thurston Principal Investigator
MetadataShow full item record
Under the supervision of Dr. Tina L. Thurston, K. Patrick Fazioli will examine the material correlates of daily social and economic interaction in the early medieval eastern Alpine region, an area that today encompasses parts of eastern Austria, western Hungary, and northern Slovenia. Beginning in the 8th century AD, historical sources indicate that Germanic-speaking groups primarily from Bavaria migrated southeastward into Alpine river valleys under the auspices of an expanding Frankish empire. These Germanic immigrants settled amidst a local Slavic-speaking population. Although the two distinct groups would form the basis of an emergent medieval society, early written records provide almost no indication of their initial socioeconomic relationship. Did this encounter of Germanic and Slavic communities result in extensive economic integration and rapid cultural creolization, or did each group retain a degree of economic and ethnic autonomy? <br/><br/>This project will shed light on these important processes by analyzing two critical datasets. First, pedestrian and soil chemical surveys will be employed to help reconstruct cultural landscapes along the middle Mur river valley in the Austrian province of Steiermark. By documenting the locations of early medieval farmsteads, field boundaries, pathways, and trash middens, these surveys will reveal how early medieval communities organized and conceptualized the space in which they lived. Secondly, compositional analyses of early medieval pottery collected from the surveys as well as from previous excavations in the region will help to establish local patterns of craft production and distribution. The conclusions drawn from these two datasets will provide greater clarity on the nature and scope of Germanic/Slavic interaction during this critical but enigmatic period of east-central European history. <br/><br/>The intellectual merits of this research project are numerous. It addresses issues of colonization, state integration, and "culture contact" in a decidedly pre-modern and non-capitalist context. It emphasizes the importance of mundane, everyday activities in the construction and maintenance of individual and group identity. These daily practices are rarely mentioned in historical sources, but can often be recovered through archaeological analysis. This project seeks to synthesize the historical and material records in a way that can capitalize on the strengths yet acknowledge the limitations of each approach. <br/><br/>This project will have broad positive impacts in both the U.S. and Europe. It will facilitate collaborative efforts between American and Austrian archaeologists and students, providing further opportunities for archaeological exploration in this fascinating but understudied region. The creation of a detailed website and implementation of a public outreach program in Buffalo, NY and Wildon, Austria will enhance the visibility of the project. Presentations at professional conferences and publication in scholarly journals will surely contribute to the scientific literature on a number of relevant issues. Finally, this project will play a major role in the doctoral training of the co-PI, specifically in the techniques of soil chemical characterization and ceramic mineralogy, as well as that of other graduate and undergraduate students who will aid in the laboratory and fieldwork.