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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 6: Gender analysis: is there evidence for segregation of the sexes in Early Byzantine basilical churches?


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Gender analysis: is there evidence for segregation of the sexes in Early Byzantine basilical churches?

The purpose of this chapter is to examine whether there is archaeological evidence for segregation of the sexes in Early Byzantine basilical churches in the catalogue of sites. If this archaeological evidence exists, then this will be cross-referenced with repeated patterns of deposition for domestic pottery from the previous chapter to determine whether there is any relationship between the two sets of evidence.

First, some of the current established views on the segregation of sexes within the Early Byzantine Church are reviewed. The primary focus is upon research conducted by Mathews and Taft who have both analysed textual references to segregation of the sexes in relation to both architectural and archaeological evidence. Then some historical references to women in the Early Byzantine Church are considered to determine whether they might provide any further evidence for segregation of the sexes at this time.

Then the archaeological evidence (Table 6.1–6.7) will be scrutinised for any indication that the sexes were segregated. When designing the database and constructing the Tables of artefacts for this research, allowance was made for two columns labelled ‘male’ and ‘female’ and those artefacts that might be assigned to either category marked off for analysis.1 These artefacts were compared against artefacts included in a recent museum exhibition on women in Byzantium, and also to textual references mentioned above.2 However the archaeological...

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