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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

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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.

BIC Classifications

  • Humanities (H)
    • History (HB)
      • History: earliest times to present day (HBL)
        • Early history: c 500 to c 1450/1500 (HBLC)
      • History: specific events & topics (HBT)
        • Social & cultural history (HBTB)
    • Archaeology (HD)
      • Archaeology by period / region (HDD)
        • Medieval European archaeology (HDDM)
    • Religion & beliefs (HR)
      • Christianity (HRC)
        • Christian Churches & denominations (HRCC)
          • The Early Church (HRCC1)
      • Aspects of religion (non-Christian) (HRL)
        • Prayers & liturgical material (HRLD)

BISAC Classifications

  • History (HIS)
    • HISTORY / General (HIS000000)
    • Ancient (HIS002)
      • HISTORY / Ancient / General (HIS002000)
    • HISTORY / Europe / General (HIS010000)
  • Religion (REL)
    • Christian Rituals & Practice (REL055)
      • RELIGION / Christian Rituals & Practice / General (REL055000)
    • RELIGION / Antiquities & Archaeology (REL072000)

THEMA Classifications

  • History & Archaeology (N)
    • History (NH)
      • European history (NHD)
        • European history: medieval period, middle ages (NHDJ)
      • History: specific events & topics (NHT)
        • Social & cultural history (NHTB)
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      • Archaeology by period / region (NKD)
  • Philosophy & Religion (Q)
    • Religion & beliefs (QR)
      • Christianity (QRM)
      • Aspects of religion (QRV)
        • Prayers & liturgical material (QRVJ)
  • Geographical qualifiers (1)
    • Europe (1D)
  • Time period qualifiers (3)
    • CE period up to c 1500 (3K)