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The Early Byzantine Christian Church

An Archaeological Re-assessment of Forty-Seven Early Byzantine Basilical Church Excavations Primarily in Israel and Jordan, and their Historical and Liturgical Context


Bernard Mulholland

The observation that domestic artefacts are often recovered during church excavations led to an archaeological re-assessment of forty-seven Early Byzantine basilical church excavations and their historical, gender and liturgical context. The excavations were restricted to the three most common basilical church plans to allow for like-for-like analysis between sites that share the same plan: monoapsidal, inscribed and triapsidal. These sites were later found to have two distinct sanctuary configurations, namely a Π-shaped sanctuary in front of the apse, or else a sanctuary that extended across both side aisles that often formed a characteristic T-shaped layout. Further analysis indicated that Π-shaped sanctuaries are found in two church plans: firstly a protruding monoapsidal plan that characteristically has a major entrance located to either side of the apse, which is also referred to as a ‘Constantinopolitan’ church plan; and secondly in the inscribed plan, which is also referred to as a ‘Syrian’ church plan. The T-shaped layout is characteristic of the triapsidal plan, but can also occur in a monoapsidal plan, and this is referred to as a ‘Roman’ church plan. Detailed analysis of inscriptions and patterns of artefactual deposition also revealed the probable location of the diakonikon where the rite of prothesis took place.
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Chapter 2: Methodology


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This book examines whether comparative analysis of repeated patterns of artefactual deposition can be used to determine what institutional activities took place in Early Byzantine basilical churches in the Levant, and where they occurred. There are four main components to this approach: (i) artefacts, (ii) repeated patterns, (iii) Early Byzantine basilical churches, and then (iv) Early Byzantine basilical churches in the Levant. This chapter will consider each of these in turn to set out how they can be addressed and why. But first, there are a range of research methods that might have been used to approach this question, and the more relevant approaches are considered briefly.

Overview of Byzantine archaeology

One of the commonest forms of archaeological investigation is non-invasive topographical survey. This is partly because it is often easier to get a licence for survey and because there is often no expensive post-excavation analysis required from specialist third parties, although the increased use of complex computerised systems and equipment can add to the costs.

However perhaps the largest component of archaeological research into the Byzantine Empire is composed of individual site excavations. These place individual church sites under intense scrutiny during excavation, and archaeological reports will often attempt to determine how the site fits into what is known of the contemporary period from historical records and from other similar sites. Although funding for excavation might be ← 13 | 14 → available, often from a university...

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