Fachbereich Geschichtswissenschaft

Skilled labour mobility and the early byzantine Building Industry

Instability of employment was on the basic conditions of life for construction workers in the pre-industrial period. The seasonal nature of aggregate demand for labour dampened the workers prospect of finding full-time employment the year around, and job opportunities depended entirely on the needs of individual projects. For the early Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries) there is significant body of evidence on the mobility of stoneworkers. These materials show that these craftsmen did move and were sometimes resident in areas far away from their place of origin, presumably because there was demand for their services. Information on stoneworkers can be found in a variety of sources: itinerant stoneworkers are mentioned in literary and hagiographic works and inscriptions, and the mobility of craftsmen also finds reflection in the archaeological evidence. 
Sources from the early Byzantine period mention stoneworkers working in the service of the imperial court at Constantinople and elsewhere, and a larger group of stoneworkers who, while operating mainly in a lower key and local context, also moved to answer the requests of patrons. The two phenomena are respectively assimilable to what Charles Tilly defined as: career migration, which involves individuals and groups moving over considerable distances in order to pursue career opportunities which are created within the context of their organization, professional networks and governments; and local migration, classified as a movement to “geographically contiguous” market in labour.
Working from both a re-examination of written sources and an assessment of the archaeological data, my aim is to offer the first comprehensive study of itinerant stoneworkers in the early Byzantine  empire from a social and economic standpoint. Through a multidisciplinary approach, I will explore the institutional and social mechanisms underlying the phenomenon of skilled labour mobility, evaluating differences in times and places, and assessing it on a micro- and macro-economic level.