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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 7: Conclusion


← 176 | 177 → CHAPTER 7


Research for this book was prompted by the observation that domestic artefacts were recovered from sealed destruction layers at two Early Byzantine church sites, i.e. the ‘cave church’ of Khirbet ed-Deir, and the ‘pilgrim church’ of the North Church in Rehovot-in-the-Negev. This appeared unusual because there were dining halls or refectories at each of the sites where one would instead expect to find these artefacts. What reason could there be for cooking pots, amphorae, flasks and jugs, plates and bowls to be found in these churches, and is this pattern repeated elsewhere in other similar churches? Could the presence of these domestic artefacts indicate that activities other than mere liturgy took place at these sites, i.e. that non-liturgical or paraliturgical activity took place in these churches? Furthermore, do they reflect institutional behaviour, i.e. are these patterns of deposition repeated across several church sites?

This research set out to investigate whether the deposition of domestic artefacts in sealed destruction layers at Early Byzantine basilical church sites is more commonplace among church sites in the Levant than has previously been assumed. To address this question the aim was first to compile a catalogue of church sites, and to limit these to the three most common basilical church plans, i.e. monoapsidal, inscribed apse, and triapsidal. Each church site would then be placed into one of these three groups to allow comparative analysis of repeated patterns of artefactual deposition between churches that shared...

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