The early Christian archaeology of Asia Minor has recently developed into a discipline devoted to the contextualized study of the material remains of early Christianity. It has characterized Asia Minor as a region where—save some notable exceptions from mortuary contexts in Central Anatolia—the impact of the new faith on local material culture only became tangible in the course of the fourth century. During the fifth and sixth centuries Christianity would eventually conquer urban and rural landscapes through church construction in traditional as well as new foci of public space. At this time it also moved into the private sphere as household objects became decorated with Christian images and symbols.
Joan E. Taylor
The first Christian archaeological evidence in Palestine dates from the third century, in the so-called Megiddo church. From 326 onward, Palestine was the focus of imperial funding, and grand basilicas were established by order of the emperor Constantine. Sacred places associated with Jesus’s ancient appearance to Abraham (Mamre), birth (Bethlehem), Crucifixion and Resurrection (Golgotha), and instruction and Ascension (the Mount of Olives) have all yielded monumental remains. There is ample material testifying to a boom in church building to service Christian pilgrimage and conversion of the population, with Christian building and rebuilding continuing through to the Persian invasion of 614 and subsequent Muslim conquest of Palestine in 638.
Eric C. Lapp
In antiquity, natural and artificial light was manipulated to illuminate dark spaces. Its primary and most significant use, however, may have been amuletic. This chapter explores several unique and in some instances forgotten archaeological small finds that hint at the use of symbolic light in tombs, sanctuaries, and building foundations. These ‘photoamulets’ were linked to metaphoric light both in word, image, and form. They were used for protection against darkness where evil spirits lurked. In a funerary context, photoamulets safeguarded the deceased person from non-remembrance and anonymity. They did so by invoking the apotropaic powers of light which ensured rebirth and eternal life. Mirror plaques, clay lamps with retrograde script, lamp-shaped pendants, and tokens were the most popular types adopted by Jews, Samaritans, and Christians in the late antique Near East.
Evidence suggests that the cost of wrapping and decorating a mummy was an expensive enterprise, and considering the wide range of people involved and the materials required, one would expect transactions concerning such costly items to have generated some paperwork. However, textual evidence for the production of mummies, burial assemblages, or tombs in Roman Egypt is almost non-existent, so much so that funerary art could almost be defined as art without artists, created by invisible hands. This article collects the available evidence and attempts to understand better the working life of the funerary artists and craftsmen of Roman Egypt.
Martin Andreas Stadler
This article discusses Egyptian funerary religion during the Roman period. During this period, there was a greater diversity of modes in which individuals could be commemorated and at the same time envisage the afterlife — as Egyptian, Hellenized Egyptian, Egyptianized Greek, and so on, depending on personal and local circumstances. The textual sources superficially show a similar variety: some compositions survive in numerous copies, while other, quite extensive texts are unique and may represent an individual creation. By the start of the Ptolemaic period, funerary compositions adapted from temple ritual texts began to appear, highlighting a connection between tomb and temple functions that became increasingly evident in the Roman period but no doubt reflects long-standing practices as well.
Jody Michael Gordon and William R. Caraher
The archaeology of early Christian Cyprus represents one of the most significant case studies of how early Christianity developed because of the island’s unique geohistorical background and the diverse nature of its material remains. When combined with local hagiographical resources, Cyprus’s material culture illustrates the gradual development of a unique form of early Christian society between the fourth and seventh centuries that drew on both local and imperial influences. This chapter contributes to such perspectives by offering an introduction to early Christian Cyprus’s archaeological corpus vis-à-vis the island’s unique Late Antique eastern Mediterranean context. It examines basilicas, baptisteries, mosaics and church decor, funerary structures, coins and seals, metalwork, epigraphy, and ceramics to reveal the discipline’s main research foci and suggest topics for future investigation.
Throughout the Roman empire, the living emperor was the subject of worship and also, in part, the object of a cult that was often very similar, if not identical, to the cult of the gods. This also applies to the Roman province of Aegyptus. Here the worship of the living ruler as a god was already a 300-year-old Ptolemaic tradition. This article presents the institutional structures of the cult of the emperor in Roman Egypt.
Well over three hundred sites, including over 150 well-preserved churches, provide abundant archaeological information on Christianity in Jordan. Archaeological investigation over the past hundred years has often focused on revealing architecture and mosaic floors, while careful, improved excavation techniques and use of scientific methods of analysis of finds in recent decades provide insights into anthropological topics, such as occupational history; standards of post-excavation conservation have improved as well. From their origins in the fourth century, material forms of Christianity spread in the fifth century and reached their high point in the sixth and seventh centuries, continuing into the early Islamic period, only to decline in the eighth century and beyond.
This article discusses mummies and mummification in Roman Egypt. The question of whether mummies from Roman Egypt attest a decline or a late heyday of mummification techniques can be answered firmly in favour of the latter. The different but generally high standards of embalming, using traditional as well as innovative Egyptian craftsmanship including excerebration, evisceration, and large quantities of embalming resins and linen, were dependent on two factors: cost and local practices. The use of extensive linen wrappings, mummy decoration (masks, shrouds, portraits, etc.), amulets, jewellery, and other burial goods, and the gilding of the skin, often correspond to high-quality mummification. However, the extremely high expense of a first-class burial in Roman Egypt was beyond almost everyone's reach.
Traditional Egyptian religion involved much more than temples, priests, and processions. The rhythms of agriculture, the experience of the landscape, and the perpetuation and fortune of family and village all involved ritual interactions with diverse gods and spirits: in the home, in local shrines, and at festivals. Using papyri and epigraphical documentation, historians of Egyptian religion can track the fortunes of the temples through the Roman period from, first, two centuries of imperial munificence, then through financial decline (third to fourth century
Syria occupies a unique place in early Christian archaeology by virtue of the fact that Antioch was the first city where followers of Jesus Christ were referred to as “Christians” and because it is the country in which the only securely dated house church has ever been discovered. Away from the Holy Land and the events of Christ’s life, and the establishment of ecclesiastical authority in Rome and Constantinople, Syria’s significance to archaeologists of Christianity lies in what the country can tell us about the daily lives of early believers. In the hinterland of Antioch hundreds of villages dating to the first seven centuries
Ian C. Rutherford
This article discusses travel in Roman Egypt. The epigraphic habits of tourists, pilgrims, and other travellers in Roman Egypt allow us to trace their movements to a degree unparalleled elsewhere in the Roman empire. To judge from surviving evidence, the provenance of almost all the visitors was Egypt itself or the eastern half of the Mediterranean; visitors from Italy are rare. Most wrote in Greek, though the volume of graffiti in Demotic remains difficult to quantify with precision when so many remain unpublished. Most of the visitors tend to see Egypt through the lens of earlier Greek writers who had written about Egypt.