The Transformation of Frontiers from Late Antiquity to the Carolingians

By Walter Pohl; Ian Wood et al. | Go to book overview

BYZANTINE BELTS AND AVAR BIRDS
DIPLOMACY, TRADE AND CULTURAL TRANSFER
IN THE EIGHTH CENTURY

Falko Daim


Introduction

It may be assumed that the concept of a precise border, which divides cultures and peoples, is a simplification which exists only in the minds of modern observers.1 Precise borders are created when single criteria are taken at face value, for example the maximum distribution of settlements, cemeteries, certain types of finds, place names or evidence for the existence of a customs check point. The range of sovereignty, of military power, can be taken into account when attempting to constitute a 'border'. Similarly, modern archaeological maps are abstractions based on single criteria. These simple models fail to reflect the complicated, stratified reality of daily life and of the relationships between people and cultures.

More appropriately, the border and border region may be comprehended as a spacious organ, in which information and vital materials are exchanged. Comprehension of the rules which are valid here, which

1This essay is based on a more extensive paper on 'Byzantine' belts: Daim, F. Daim,
“'Byzantinische' Gürtel des 8. Jahrhunderts”, Die Awaren am Rand der byzantinischen Welt.
Studien zu Diplomatie, Handel und Technologietransfer im Frühmittelalter, ed. F. Daim, Mono-
graphien zur Frühgeschichte und Mittelalterarchäologie 7 (Innsbruck, 2000, in press).
For advice and help in various ways, I would like to thank: Susan A. Boyd (Wash-
ington), Katharine R. Brown (New York), Tom S. Brown (Edinburgh), Dafydd Kidd
(London), Anton Distelberger (Wien), Éva Garam (Budapest), Gábor Kiss (Szomba-
thely), Kurt Karpf (Villach), Johannes Koder (Wien), Ante Milošević (Split), Maja Petrinec
(Split), Martina Pippal (Wien), Lumír Polášek (Mikulčice), Werner Seibt (Wien), Tomis-
lav Šeparović (Split), Péter Somogyi (Frastanz), Peter Stadler (Wien), Tatjana Stadler-
Denisova (Wien), Stanislav Stanilov (Sofia), Ludwig Streinz (Wien), Jaroslav Tejral (Brno)
and Alexander Trugly (Komárno). Most of the drawings and distribution maps are by
Franz Siegmeth. The text was translated by Birgit Bühler, however I would also like
to thank Ian Wood and Walter Pohl for their editorial support. My friend Peter Stadler
is my constant interlocutor in Vienna. My work has benefited just as frequently from
his sharp and critical intellect as from his huge data base of Avar finds, which is the
product of almost two decades of hard work and which he has always, unselfishly,
made available to me and to others.

-143-

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