Rangar H. Cline
Although “magical” amulets are often overlooked in studies of early Christian material culture, they provide unique insight into the lives of early Christians. The high number of amulets that survive from antiquity, their presence in domestic and mortuary archaeological contexts, and frequent discussions of amulets in Late Antique literary sources indicate that they constituted an integral part of the fabric of religious life for early Christians. The appearance of Christian symbols on amulets, beginning in the second century and occurring with increasing frequency in the fourth century and afterward, reveals the increasing perception of Christian symbols as ritually potent among Christians and others in the Roman Empire. The forms, texts, and images on amulets reveal the fears and hopes that occupied the daily lives of early Christians, when amulets designed for ritual efficacy if not orthodoxy were believed to provide a defense against forces that would harm body and soul.
This chapter examines the development of a distinctive early Christian genre: the icon. It does so by taking a relatively unknown, but important, example of a devotional panel in a U.S. collection with a (now) anonymous warrior saint trampling a demon while on horseback. This icon permits a methodological rumination on the means by which we come to think we know the historical meaning of such an object: our art historical premises, our photographic and museological knowledge of objects, and our own assumption about what constitutes a real “subject” in the past and in the present. This chapter attempts a kind of archaeology, an examination of strata in the icon, but really an anarchéologie of the icon, by which archaeology is problematized, undermined, in order to reveal the ways in which our culture has produced its histories.
Kevin Conti and William Walker
This chapter explores the performance of light and shadows in two ancestral Pueblo rock art sites in southeast Utah. These sites possess anthropomorphic rock faces and modified features to create both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic images that we argue derive from mythological traditions of Pueblo peoples. Specifically, light/shadow patterns at these sites produce and interact with Bear and War Twin imagery on prominent dates of the solar calendar. Traditionally such imagery would be approached through rock art studies in terms of motifs and symbolic interpretations. The celestial component would be addressed by archaeoastronomers. Using object agency theory, we seek to contextualize these data as places where people communicated with their Bear and War Twin deities.
M. A. Hall
Creating, inviting, and repurposing sacrality was a fundamental quest of social behaviour in the medieval period. From the major shrines of cathedrals down to the portable sanctity of amulets, the pursuit of sacredness affected the everyday lives of Christian believers, helping to fashion memories and create heirlooms. Drawing on history, art history, anthropology, and folklore under the broad umbrella of material culture, this contribution takes a socially informed and trans-disciplinary approach to archaeology and seeks a holistic interpretation of the medieval past, one that does not neglect the intangible. This contribution seeks to underline the value of recent, new perspectives in this area and to broaden their application. Three overlapping themes are considered: relics, places, and mobility.
Darlene L. Brooks Hedstrom
This chapter discusses the evolution of scholarly interest in Christian antiquities in Egypt after 1900. The archaeology of early Christianity developed much later than the field of Egyptology and initially focused only upon the clearing of monumental churches. Growing interest in Byzantine art and archaeology in the mid-1920s fostered greater support for excavations of expressly Christian settlements, which were primarily monastic communities. The wealth of archaeological evidence preserved in Egypt’s arid climate, such as documentary evidence (ostraca and papyri), textiles, manuscripts, and small finds such as items made of leather, reeds, ivory, and wood, helped foster a greater appreciation for Egypt’s history after the age of the pharaohs.
Alexandra Chavarría Arnau
The archaeology of early Christian churches has made important advancements in recent decades in Italy thanks to a large number of new excavations and scientific meetings, as well as the development of the project CARE (Corpus Architecturae Religiosae Europeae (IV–X saec.)), in which most Italian specialists are involved. This chapter suggests new lines of research, thus contributing to a revised historiography of the archaeology of early Christian churches in Italy between the fourth century and the end of the sixth century. It surveys some of the ecclesiastical complexes that have been reanalyzed in recent decades or recently discovered through archaeological excavations.
Darlene L. Brooks Hedstrom
This chapter discusses new developments in the field of monastic archaeology and the archaeology of early monastic settlements. The presence of monastic communities in documentary and literary evidence has produced a wide array of studies of monasticism, but very few of these have considered the purpose-built environments or the remodeled natural environments for monastic habitation. This chapter therefore considers examples from Egypt, Gaza, Britain, and Ireland to illustrate the history of archaeological study of monastic life and the importance of integrating monastic archaeology into broader categories dealing with landscape, urbanization, and connectivity from the fourth century through the tenth century.
An understanding of medieval pilgrimage can be informed by the application of archaeological approaches to the physical evidence. This chapter outlines the evidence of pilgrimage within the historic landscape, demonstrates the existence of an infrastructure for the support of pilgrims, and applies a functional approach to interpreting the sometimes fugitive remains of shrines. Consideration is also given to the impressive material culture of pilgrimage souvenirs, and the evidence that this provides of pilgrims’ travels at home and abroad. Extraordinary insights can also be gained into the life experiences and personal faith of medieval individuals from the excavation of pilgrim burials.
James F. Strange
This chapter discusses the archaeology of the New Testament as applied to Jesus and the gospels. The aim is to create a reliable social, economic, and material history of the origins and dissemination of the New Testament text. In the nineteenth century, certain New Testament and classical scholars studied the material culture of Roman-period Galilee as the context of the gospel traditions. The discipline moved from comparative analysis of inscriptions and other ancient texts to excavation of Jewish synagogues, Roman temples, houses, and domestic ritual baths. The discipline developed sophisticated methods to excavate artifacts, pottery, glass, coins, and stone vessels and to determine their distribution and stratigraphic position at a given site. This chapter reviews the archaeology of specific sites mentioned in the New Testament and several not mentioned to provide an archaeological reconstruction of the social, economic, political, and religious patterns of human life in Galilee and Judea.
The fourth to seventh centuries were formative in the art and culture of Armenia. This era witnessed the conversion of the land to Christianity, the invention of the Armenian alphabet and the consequent development of a literary tradition, the formulation of a specific understanding of the nature of Christ, and the emergence of a striking and robust visual tradition. The architecture, stone sculpture, and mosaic pavements produced during this era attest to the integration of Armenians within the broader Mediterranean and Iranian worlds, and to the development of distinctive artistic forms and practices. This material thus offers powerful testimony of contemporary beliefs, social structures, and political conditions of Armenians living both within the historical homeland and in communities abroad.