William R. Caraher and David K. Pettegrew
Since the Renaissance, archaeology has played a significant albeit changing role in illuminating the history of early Christianity. This chapter surveys different historical approaches to archaeological investigations of Christianity, from early efforts to authenticate or disprove the traditions and practices of the Catholic church to the development of the field of early Christian archaeology in continental Europe and through to more recent efforts to reconstruct the social and economic contexts of early Christian sites and landscapes between the first and eighth centuries. This chapter offers a state of the field, highlighting the positive achievements of archaeologists over the last two centuries and drawing attention to problems of method, interpretation, and approach that modern scholars are working to correct. It recommends repositioning the field within the disciplinary framework of archaeology itself while also encouraging fruitful interdisciplinary conversation.