– 2010, 7 octobre : Séminaire inaugural (Joanita Vroom, Leiden)

The archaeology of food in the eastern Mediterranean during Byzantine times (ca. 10th-15th c.): A ceramic perspective – MSH MOM – 7 octobre 2010

Joanita Vroom – Université de Leiden


This seminar sets out to discuss the archaeology of food and dining habits in the eastern Mediterranean during Byzantine times (ca. 10th-15th centuries after Christ). The emphasis will be on a preliminary reconstruction of a Byzantine table setting through archaeological evidence. Apart from looking at excavated examples of table equipment (e.g., pottery, glass, metal ware and cutlery), two more sources of information will be used during the presentation: pictorial representations of dining scenes in Byzantine art as well as written sources on the subject. The aim of this survey is to establish whether the pictorial and written sources can contribute to the understanding of Byzantine dining habits in the eastern Mediterranean, of their changes over time, and, consequently, of the changes in form and function of pottery and other utensils used on the table.

It is not my intention in any way to strive for completeness in this survey, but rather to establish whether this is a fruitful line of approach to explain long-term changes in the ceramics. As far as pictorial sources are concerned, I look at various dining scenes from religious and secular Byzantine art, and at pictures of the Last Supper scene in particular. Specifically, my attention is focused on the depiction of the Last Supper in the Byzantine East as an actual meal (and not as a liturgical act). However, it is not my intention to discuss all the known representations of the Last Supper scene in Byzantine art. I rather concentrate my discussion upon those pictures in which the depicted scene has relevance for the understanding of the changes in shape and function of the ceramics and other utensils found at excavations in the eastern Mediterranean.

Vroom J. 2007, ‘The changing dining habits at Christ’s table’, in: L. Brubraker and K. Linardou (eds.), Eat, Drink, and Be Merry (Luke 12:19) – Food and Wine in Byzantium. Papers of the 37th Annual Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, in Honour of Professor A.A.M. Bryer (Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies, Publications 13), Aldershot: 191-222.

Vroom J. 2003, After Antiquity. Ceramics and Society in the Aegean from the 7th to the 20th centuries A.C. A Case Study from Boeotia, Central Greece (Archaeological Studies Leiden University 10), Leiden (published Ph.D. thesis, University of Leiden), especially chapters 7, 11 and 12.

Vroom J. 2000, ‘Byzantine garlic and Turkish delight: Dining habits and cultural change in Central Greece from Byzantine to Ottoman times’, Archaeological Dialogues 7: 199-216.

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