There are fifty-five churches in the northern part of the province of Arabia that are part of the dataset of this project. Of particular interest are churches clustered in urban areas. I have just posted the materials for Umm al-Jimal (el-Jimal). There are twelve churches. They are numbers A2 to A13 in the menu for Arabia. Many are Syrian in style. But some have one protruding apse and are either basilicas or hall churches/chapels. The northeast church at Hippos is of similar form. Although Mulholland has a category for such churches (Constantinopolitan), there are significant differences with those at Umm al-Jimal. Entrances flanking the apse do not occur at Umm Al-Jimal, not to mention the regional nature of the Constantinopolitan group. Another category is necessary for discussing mono-apsidal churches with a protruding apse. Tracing the originals and practices in them will be important.
As the month draws to a close, so does my research fellowship at the Albright. It was the goal of the project to expand on the article I wrote for Michmanim (27:18-28). A weakness of the original work was its reliance on an analytical framework from Bernard Mulholland, The Early Byzantine Church (Oxford, 2014). Mulholland’s analysis was rightly criticized for being based on a rather small dataset of forty-seven churches (Fiema, BASOR 376:246-249).
I used time at the Albright to test his model on a larger set of Late Antique churches. My dataset came to include 106 churches from Palaestina Secunda, the northern part of the province of Arabia, and the Syrian Hauran south of Damascus. I focused on basilical churches with a nave and two aisles.
I have built a bibliography of preliminary and final reports on each site and have begun to summarize the critical data. While I am not ready to state conclusions, I expect that the analytical model will be revised to reflect the particularities of the regions around Hippos/Sussita. Whether changes in the 6th century can be tied to liturgical practice or theological alignment have yet to appear conclusively in the data.
Working at the Albright has been a distinct privilege and has given me the resources to advance my work.
I am entering the final month of my research at the W.F. Albright Institute in Jerusalem. Fortunately, I have been able to maintain my planned schedule of work and have this month turned to the Syrian Hauran — The area south of Damascus and north of the modern border with Jordan. The map above indicated the sites of interest along with the titular sees (no longer active) around Bosra, many of which sent bishops to major apostolic councils from Nicea to Chalcedon. This likely will be the most challenging area of research as the publication record is quite spotty and the “troubles” of the last decade have disrupted and damaged many archaeological sites.
When this month’s work is complete, I will have gathered and read reports on and have begun to synthesize pertinent information from around ninety sites in Palestina Secunda, the province of Arabia north of Madeba, and the Syrian Hauran.
Upon return to the states, I will build out the website that presents this information in a summary form and assesses the validity of Mulholland’s protocol for interpreting the floor plans of Late Antique churches in the sixth century.
I have arrived in Jerusalem and settled into a studio apartment about a 12 minute walk from Albright Institute.
I have met Emily the head librarian, who oriented me to the library and assigned me a desk in the newly renovated library basement. The room is also home for most of the periodical collection. The library is non-circulating. But we can keep volumes at our desk after we place a “ghost card” with pertinent information in the slot from which we withdrew the book.
During my first week, I have been reading much background material on the architectural forms and appointments in byzantine basilical churches. Watch for a coming post in which I discuss some rethinking of room identification in the Northeast Church.
My next steps will be to gather excavation reports and build on some 85 sites initially chosen for the project. I will begin with those sites in Palaestina Secunda. As I work through the sites, I will post data and initial evaluation to the Archaeology of Liturgy website.
Shortly, we will be leaving for Jerusalem. Most plans are in place. Packing is the urgent task.
I have reviewed all the sites originally identified and have eliminated some. Bibliographic sources have been noted (with a few exceptions). The map site is current. When I am in Jersualem, I will build out the individual pages and link them to the map.
My other initial task will be to review Mulholland’s protocol and to read some of the supporting sources.