Monday, 18 February 2008

Coptic Graffiti and Early Christian Impressions of the Past

What's New in Papyrology?

The abstract of a forthcoming lecture by Jennifer Westerfeld, which highlights some important points itself, and is accompanied by a photograph that amply illustrates the point being made: Spray-painted across walls or scratched onto the windows of subway cars, graffiti is often seen as a modern, urban phenomenon. However, the practice of writing graffiti actually goes back many thousands of years, and graffiti from the ancient world can be a valuable source of information for modern historians, giving us greater insight into how the ancients interacted with local landscapes. This talk will draw on recent fieldwork at Abydos and sites in Egypt's Kharga Oasis to discuss how Christian graffiti from the late antique period (roughly 350-750 CE) reflect changing attitudes towards sacred space and can help us reconstruct early Egyptian Christians' impressions of the Pharaonic monuments that still dominated the landscape at that time.

It's nice to see the ways in which graffiti can be useful! Details of the lecture by Jennifer Westerfeld, in Chicago at the end of March, are on the above page. A short bio of Westerfeld is also shown on the above page.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Of Fayoum's mummies and churches

eTurboNews (Hazel Heyer)

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) announced last week a Russian-American archaeological mission has unearthed a number of well-preserved Graeco-Roman mummies covered in cartons. They made the discovery during a routine excavation work at the Deir el-Banat necropolis in Fayoum. . . .

Rather than the mummies, Fayoum may be known more for its religious history. Villages in Fayoum support previous findings about Roman persecution by Christians in Egypt. Archeological remains from this persecution are not well known but are on display. Coptic Christian crosses from this period can be found in caves in Fayoum, the same ones crosses visitors find in pharaonic tombs in Luxor, and the temple of Dendera near Qena. These locations probably served as hiding places for Christians during the Roman persecution.

The period between the year 200 and the council of Chalcedon (451) was a period of flourishing for the Coptic Orthodox Church. In spite of the Roman persecution of Christians the church continued to grow. The persecutions were most severe during the emperor Diocletian’s reign (284-311). The size of the Christian persecution in Egypt was probably larger than in other countries because of the size of the Christian community in Egypt.

See the above page for the full story.