Cultural landscapes and sacred imprints in Epirus, NW Greece
In the mountainous landscapes of Epirus, cultural practices and values are deeply imprinted in the natural environment through long term procedures, which that transform natural to cultural landscapes. Recent history is impressed into the landscape through former communication and trade networks, technical infrastructures and special land-use practices, for example stone-paved lanes and bridges; terraces, threshing floors and water mils; also through shredded broadleaved oaks or evergreen prickly oaks in the form of low shrubs sculptured by cutting, grazing and wildfires. Different cultural units express their community identities with concrete landscapes. For example, in Zagori transhumant Sarakatsani are linked to mountain pastures above the tree line, settled Zagorians with the oak vegetation zone where most villages are located, and settled Vlachs with conifers and timber production. The idea of the sacred creates in the landscape social orders, conventions and strict borders between domesticated land and wilderness. People’s imagination perceives wilderness as the dwelling place of the supernatural: dragons, fairies and demons. Similarly, remote chapels and icon stands domicile particular orthodox saints who guard settlements and tame wild natural forces. Moreover sacred forests or isolated mature trees serve as signs of the sacred landscape, remaining until now well distinct for those who can comprehend these ancient cultural imprints within recent habitat homogenization caused by land abandonment.
This research has been co-financed by the European Union (European Social Fund – ESF) and Greek national funds through the Operational Program "Education and Lifelong Learning" of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) - Research Funding Program: THALIS - Investing in knowledge society through the European Social Fund.
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