A massive corpus of unedited archaeological sources collected over the last two decades from the deserts of Egypt, by far the richest available for the fourth century, sheds a radically new light on Christianity in Egypt.
Building on this new dataset, DEChriM reassesses phenomena and developments that are defining for Egypt's Christianisation, such as the chronology and dynamics of the evangelisation, the role played in this process by imperial legislation and institutions, the balance between rural and urban Christian communities, the social and cultural profile of the conveyors of Christianity, strategies for negotiating Christian identity, etc. Grounded in the archaeological record, DEChriM addresses also key issues relating to material culture through, among others, producing a catalogue of fourth-century Christian archaeological material (monuments and artefacts), providing absolute dates and occupation sequences for the most significant monuments, systematising chrono-typologically fourth-century Christian architecture, producing a long overdue catalogue of the ceramic production of the fourth century in Egypt or drafting. As suggested already by the pre-treatment of the corpus, the picture of fourth-century Egyptian Christianity emerging from this mass of data shifts the paradigm with which operates the historiography of late antique Egypt.
Whilst deconstructing the prevailing metanarratives on fourth-century Christian Egypt, the project aims for hypercontextualised regional micro-narratives valid for some regions of Egypt, but potentially relevant for or extrapolable to other provinces of the Late Roman Empire. An inter- and trans-disciplinary collective endeavour calling upon a variety of disciplines, methods and techniques, DEChriM constitutes the first in-depth regional study in fourth-century Christian archaeology.
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