Humphrey, ed., The Roman and Byzantine Near East, vol. 3

H. Humphrey, ed., The Roman and Byzantine Near East: Some Recent Archaeological Research, vol. 3 (2003).

1. Yoram Tsafrir and Boaz Zissu, “A Hiding Complex of the Second Temple Period and the Time of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt at ‘Ain-‘Arrub in the Hebron Hills”: Between the two Jewish revolts, Judeans dug tunnels between disused underground installations (like cisterns, columbaria, etc.) in order to use them as hiding places in the case of Roman assault. Bar Kokhba was possibly born about 2 km south of ‘Ain-‘Arrub, ‘Ain-‘Arrub may also be the Kiryat ‘Arbayyah mentioned in one of Bar Kokhba’s letters.

2. Alla Kushnir-Stein, “New Inscribed Lead Weights from Gaza”: An edition of 7 previously unpublished lead weights from Roman Gaza. Five bear the Phoenician mem (the first letter of the name of Marnas, who was the patron deity of Gaza).

3. Doron Bar, “Was There a 3rd-c. Economic Crisis in Palestine?”: Even though the Western Roman Empire saw an economic crisis between 235 and 284 CE, archaeological evidence shows that Palestine experienced a period of growth then. The rabbinic writings record nothing that unambiguously points to economic decline in the 3rd century.

4. Zeev Weiss and Rina Talgam, “The Nile Festival Building and Its Mosaics: Mythological Representations in Early Byzantine Sepphoris”: The two artists who created the mosaics were probably from Alexandria. The main mosaic shows scenes from the Nile Festival, which was still practiced in Egypt (although in a Christianized form) as late as the 7th century. The Nile scenes were chosen for the main mosaic “because of [the Nile’s] fertility, abundance, and prosperity, the exotic appeal of the theme, and the decorative value of the composition” (72). Similarly, another mosaic shows Amazons dancing, not as part of a ritual (as in Callimachus’ Hymn to Artemis), but as part of a banquet. The mosaics are another example (along with the mosaics at Madaba, for instance) of Byzantine culture not being afraid of Classical themes.

4a. Leah Di Segni, “Appendix: Greek Inscriptions in the Nile Festival Building”: Editions of and commentaries on the Greek inscriptions from the mosaics at the Nile Festival building.

5. Douglas R. Edwards, “Khirbet Qana: From Jewish Village to a Christian Pilgrim Site”: Kh. Qana was inhabited off and on from the Neolithic through the Ottoman periods. Its population grew from the 1st century BCE through the Roman period, and it flourished during the Byzantine period, after Christian pilgrims identified it with Cana of Galilee in the 5th century. A shrine was built in a series of caves on the south slope of the hill, which “saw considerable foot traffic” (126), as evidenced by the high polish on the steps leading into the shrine and on the top of the altar inside one of the caves.

6. Cèsar Carreras Monfort and David F. Williams, “’Carrot’ Amphoras: A Syrian or Palestinian Connection?”: Opens the question whether carrot amphorae, which are only found at sites from the western Roman Empire, may have been produced in Syria or Palestine, owing to similarities in fabric between carrot amphorae and Syrian-Palestinian ceramics and that they typically contained dates of a type produced near Jericho.

7. Peter Fabian and Yuval Goren, “A New Type of Late Roman Storage Jar from the Negev”: Elusa jars were produced at a single site (Elusa) and used all over the Negev during the late Roman period.

8. Yizhar Hirschfeld, “Deir Qal’a and the Monasteries of Western Samaria”: “The monasteries of W Samaria have a number of common characteristics. They are all coenobia with walls generally enclosing a church, refectory, and living quarters. They are all built of large ashlars, usually with dressed margins, and decorated with crosses and classical motifs. It is a compact group, with a distance of no more than 2-3km between them” (187), founded near a Christian pilgrimage route to Jerusalem, probably after the Samaritan revolt (529/530) was put down and Christian sites were rebuilt with tax revenue.

9. Zbigniew T. Fiema, “Late-Antique Petra and Its Hinterland: Recent Research and New Interpretations”: “The most important conclusion derived from recent archaeological work and the Petra papyri is that Petra continued to exist through the 6th c.” (213). It was capital of Palaestina Tertia through the 6th century, and the Petra papyri attest to the administrative infrastructure there. The church (specifically the bishop) was an integral part of government in Byzantine Petra. However, Petra’s residents also held to traditional Nabataean practices. Residents of Petra spoke pre-Islamic Early Arabic, and Greek was the language of the administration. The settlement grew smaller from the 3rd century to the 6th century; an earthquake in 363 accelerated the process. During the same time, Petra “lost its importance as a major market for goods exchanged between regions” (225), though local trade still occurred. As in Palestine, Petra saw an economic downturn in the 5th century. Petra’s economy rallied briefly in the early 6th century, before a collapse in the mid-to-late 6th century. By the 6th century, major trade routes had shifted away from Petra. The population may have ruralized by the 7th century, since the Crusaders found the area inhabited by small villages.

10. David Stacey, “The Later Synagogues at Hammath Tiberias and Problems of Dating the Islamic Phases and Pottery”: A review of Moshe Dothan (ed. By Barbara L. Johnson), Hammath Tiberias vol. 2: The Late Synagogues.


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