Seminar Series: The Medieval Black Sea Project, Princeton University, 17 November 2022 – 9 March 2023

This seminar series showcases new research on contact, conflict and exchange in the region of the medieval Black Sea. Our invited speakers will share their expertise on the various aspects of the region’s past, building on analyses of textual, art historical and archaeological material. A wide range of historical sources will be considered, allowing us to explore the agency not only of elite, but also of non-elite individuals and groups. 

Papers will trace the region’s historical development, beginning with the impact of the Roman, Hunnic, and Avar Empires in late antiquity. The expansion of these empires and the migrations of the peoples they displaced, as well as the later incursions of the Vikings, will be reconstructed on the basis of recently discovered archaeological evidence, such as early medieval ships preserved in the depths of the Black Sea and Byzantine and Viking coins unearthed in the hinterlands. The eventual formation from this dynamic context of the Kingdom of Rus’– and the foundation of the city of Kiev (Kiyv)  – will be examined, as will the interactions with the Byzantine Empire and the Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates. We aim to evaluate the impact of the expansion of the Latins from the Mediterranean and the Mongols and Turks from Central and East Asia. We also examine the role played in the regional economy by the Ayyubid and Mamluk Sultanates as ‘slave states’ dependent on the importation of Slav and Kipchak captives. Finally, the question of the navigation (and possible appropriation) of the region’s past at the end of the Middle Ages and its influence on later Muscovite narratives of legitimation will be given attention. 

Each session will consist of two short papers, followed by a response and a discussion, in the hope of enriching our understanding and creating opportunities for future collaborations between scholars.

Advance registration required for Zoom participation.

The first lecture is Thursday 17th November 2022 at 16:30 EST. Please find the complete schedule below:

Thursday, November 17, 2022
4:30 PM | 211 Dickinson Hall & Zoom

  • Olenka Pevny, University of Cambridge | “St. Clement in Rus’: Subverting the Latin West-Eastern Orthodox Dichotomy”
  • Alexandra Vukovich, King’s College, London | “Tmutarakan on the Black Sea: A medieval crossroads”

Zoom Registration – For those who wish to attend this seminar virtually.

Registration is not required for in-person attendance of this seminar. We kindly ask that you please follow the current University Covid-19 guidelines.

Thursday, December 1, 2022
4:30 PM | 211 Dickinson Hall & Zoom

  • Jane Kershaw, University of Oxford | “Across the Black and Caspian Seas: Silver and the Viking Expansion”
  • Jonathan Shepard, University of Oxford [Zoom] | “Furs, Slaves and the Black Sea”

Zoom Registration – For those who wish to attend this seminar virtually.

Thursday, February 2, 2023
4:30 PM | 211 Dickinson Hall & Zoom

  • Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, University of Southampton | “Documenting Archaeological Sites Using Deep Sea Robotics – The Black Sea MAP Project”
  • Johan Rönnby, Södertörn University | “Sea Change. A Maritime Archaeological Perspective to Black Sea Long-term Human and Environmental History”

Zoom Registration – For those who wish to attend this seminar virtually.

Thursday, February 9, 2023
4:30 PM | 211 Dickinson Hall & Zoom

  • Yulia Mikhailova, New Mexico Tech | “O Rus Land, Brightest of the Bright”: Land, Religion, and Identity between the Pontic Steppe and the Eastern Baltic, 10th – 13th cc.
  • Christian Raffensperger, Wittenberg University | “The Arc of Medieval Europe: Shifting our Focus in Medieval Studies”

Zoom Registration – For those who wish to attend this seminar virtually.

Thursday, March 2, 2023
4:30 PM | 211 Dickinson Hall & Zoom

  • Lilyana Yordanova, École française d’Athènes | “Entangled Past and Selective Present: the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast at the Crossroad of Cultures and Religions”
  • Valentina Izmirlieva, Columbia University | “How Moscow Usurped the Baptizer of Rus’: From Muscovy to Putin’s Russia”

Zoom Registration – For those who wish to attend this seminar virtually.

Thursday, March 9, 2023
4:30 PM | 211 Dickinson Hall & Zoom

  • Peter Sarris, University of Cambridge | “Justinian’s Black Sea Policy in the Context of Byzantium’s Eastern Strategy”
  • Alexander Sarantis, University of Warsaw | “The Strategic Importance of the Black Sea in the Age of Justinian”

Zoom Registration – For those who wish to attend this seminar virtually.

The recording of any meeting, activity or event relating to the Medieval Black Sea Project (and/or distribution of that recording) is not authorised without advance notice to, consultation with and express permission from the organisers and administrators of the project. Unauthorised recording is a violation of the policy of Princeton University and may result in disciplinary action. For further information on university policies, please consult with the Office of the General Counsel.


Published by charlottecook

Charlotte Cook graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in European History from Washington & Lee University in 2019. In 2020 she received her Master’s degree in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, earning the classification of Merit. Her research explores questions of royal patronage, both by and in honor of rulers, in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England. She has worked as a researcher and collections assistant at several museums and galleries, and plans to begin her PhD in the autumn of 2022.

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