BRIA (The Landscape and Rock-cut Architecture of Byzantine and Medieval Thrace) Project is an interdisciplinary research project supported by Koç University Seed Fund, involving a large team of scholars and PhD students from Koç University and other major universities/research institutions in Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, North America and Canada.
The name of the project “BRIA” is inspired by the suffix BRIA, which means ‘town’ in Thracian, borne by the Ancient Thracian cities such as Messembria (Nessebar in Bulgaria) or Selymbria (Silivri in Turkey).
The historical region of Thrace, located in the southeast Balkans, is defined as the area bordered between the Balkan Mountains to the north, the Aegean Sea to the south, the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara to the east and is named after the fierce warriors of Thracians tribes. During the Middle Ages the Byzantine Empire, Bulgarian and Serbian medieval states ruled the region interchangeably until it became part of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Thrace was the immediate hinterland, and the heartland of the Byzantine and Ottoman imperial capital, Constantinople/Istanbul, for fifteen centuries, until it was divided between Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. With this division, it became a frontier (and confrontation) zone between these three countries resulting in the deterioration of the landscape, the emergence of dysfunctional socioeconomic conditions and the redefinition of geopolitical topography.
BRIA Project aims to redefine landscape continuities by investigating a group of -little studied- rupestrian sites, currently divided among the 3 states. First stage of the project involves exploratory fieldwork campaigns in chosen rupestrian sites with the following goals: to assess present conditions of the sites; to record and document their natural, architectural and artistic features with the use of the latest technologies and software applications; to produce 3D models that can be used for comparative studies; to integrate the monuments within their landscape and geographical formations (rivers, mountains, passes) with the use of GIS and satellite technology in order to interpret and decode functions and uses.
Accordingly, the first fieldwork trip of BRIA Project was held between May 30 - June 7 2022 with sixteen members of its international team. More than 20 sites have been visited and explored from Constantinople/Istanbul to Thessaloniki across the historical region of Thrace, within the borders of Turkey and Greece.
The BRIA project was made possible with support of the following institutions: Koç University Seed Research Fund, Koç University Sevgi Gönül Center For Byzantine Studies, the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, University of Virginia, and University of British Columbia.