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Beyond Baptism: Christian Interaction with Water Resources in the Late Antique Near East

HUMPHREYS, STEPHEN,DAN (2020) Beyond Baptism: Christian Interaction with Water Resources in the Late Antique Near East. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The primary objective of this research is to demonstrate through an integrated analysis of the available source material, that Christian interaction with water in the Near East between the 4th and 7th centuries existed, was more functionally varied, and occurred across a broader section of society than previously hypothesized. This study engages with extant scholarship which portrays the church of this period as an economic actor first and foremost, integrating the ‘enchanted’ and essentially animistic view of the Byantine urban landscape put forward by Dayna Kalleres in order to argue that Byzantine Christians viewed water as a contested sacred space in its own right. The study is geographically limited to modern Israel, Cyprus, and Jordan, and temporally bounded by Constantine the Great’s rise to power in the early 4th century and the Islamic invasions which disrupted the region in the mid-7th century.
This thesis is the first piece of research to propose that Byzantine clergy and laity alike viewed water not only as an element used for the purpose of purification but also as an element which could be functionally enhanced through ritual practice in order to add physical benefit. Effectively, this comprises the first attempt to identify the earliest archaeological signature of the Christian concept of ‘holy water’ that endures today in the Orthodox Church as well as in popular media. This is based upon the creation of a catalogue consisting of 74 crosses found on or in water installations within the study region, the analysis of contemporary texts regarding water and material consecration, and the analysis of churches and water systems in Kourion, Cyprus and Jerusalem, Israel.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Late Antiquity; Late Antique Christianity; water; holy water; cross iconography; Psalm 29:3; Christian magic
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Jul 2020 13:00

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