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Analyzing Documents
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Material Culture/Objects

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Analyzing Documents presents case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. On this screen you have an image of the Hagia Sophia, the cathedral of the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople, (present day Istanbul), and an architectural drawing of the building’s floor plan. The Hagia Sophia was built in the early 6th century by the Emperor Justinian and stands today, almost 1,500 years later, despite earthquakes, wars, and revolutions. The Hagia Sophia began its life as a Christian church, became a Muslim mosque and is now a museum. Buildings such as the Hagia Sophia offer us wonderful opportunities to investigate such things as evolving religious practices, architectural and engineering techniques, and the relationship between a building and political power.


Examine the floor plan and images of the Hagia Sophia carefully. What do you first notice about each? What clues do the plans offer to the larger structure? Why do you think the architect designed the building this way? What resources would a society have to have in order to build something this massive so long ago? How might someone react when viewing this structure for the first time 1,000 years ago? Today? How would those reactions be different? What changes do you think there were to the structure when it became a Muslim mosque? These are all questions historians ask when they confront an object like the Hagia Sophia. Now listen to Professor Lawrence Butler talk about the structure and its history.


Now see how Art Historian Lawrence Butler interprets the Hagia Sophia.Go to Next Page


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A project of the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University,
with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gladys Delmas Foundation
2003-2005 center for history & new media