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Belgian Area of Interdisciplinary Exchanges on the Mediterranean Antiquity and its Survival
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Rick Bonnie "Galilee during the Second Century AD. A Period of Political, Socio-cultural and Economic Change" Aspirant FWO, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Promotors: Prof.dr. Marc Waelkens & Prof.dr. Jeroen Poblome Starting date: 01/10/2009 Abstract: When scholarly interest in Galilee’s Roman history awakened in the late 19th century, this was due to its particular setting as the birthplace of Christianity and rabbinic Judaism. As textual evidence from this region describes the Roman period from a predominantly native perspective (which is rather unusual), the picture of a static ‘Jewish’ Galilee immune to Roman influence was fostered. Archaeology, so often being history’s ‘handmaiden’, adopted this view without questioning it, all the more due to an increasing nationalistic archaeology after Israel's independence (1948). Recent archaeological research, however, has shed a different light on Roman Galilee; it was no longer represented as an isolated ‘Jewish’ region, but a region that due to its incorporation in the Roman Empire changed. It has been generally agreed that in this respect the second century AD played a large role. Previously characteristic artefact types such as chalkstone vessels and ossuaries as well as the traditions to which they belonged disappeared, whereas Rome’s influence on artefacts, arts and building architecture seemed to increase. Small settlements as Sepphoris and Tiberias developed into middle-sized Roman cities with a regular street plan, an agora, a theatre, aqueducts and bath houses. Only around 100 AD, after the death of the ‘client’ king Herodes Agrippa II, Galilee came for the first time in its Roman history under direct control of Rome. Since that moment, communications with other regions in the Empire developed remarkably. Galilee’s development during this period, however, remains hardly understood due to a predominant focus on the outset of Christianity and rabbinic Judaism, respectively the first and third century AD. Therefore studying the second century AD and its various events in both their wider and local context seems important; not only for our understanding of the region of Galilee as a whole, but also for our understanding of the construction and materiality of cultural identity and the development of Roman, Christian and Jewish cultural identities. This research project thus aims at including the region of Galilee and its development during the second century AD in the ongoing debate on ‘Romanization’ and its usefulness as an analytical concept. As recently has been argued, the inherited approaches of the concept ‘Romanization’ usually have a colonialist and one-sided connotation that for a long time seem to have stagnated the discipline. The Roman Empire needs to be viewed as a hybrid cultural setting that was created through ‘negotiation’ between different identities, cultures and traditions. Provincial elements, in this regard, did not necessarily cease to exist. Viewed from a local perspective, this project also fits within the ongoing debate on ‘ethnic identity’, culture and tradition. Furthermore, the project’s aim is to examine Galilee’s material culture on three different spatial levels: household, settlement and region. All three levels (or contexts) relate to one another, but still remain separate entities that develop with regard to their setting. The innovation lies in the combination of the three contexts, through which one can study the mutual interactions, directions and effects of these processes during a particular period. This falls within the scope of ‘material culture studies’, focusing not on specific artefact types but on “hybrid, contingent, context-specific material culture”. Lastly, the project aims to examine the role of Herod the Great and the later Herodian dynasty as builders and benefactors introducing Roman elements and buildings, as well as the impact of the two Jewish revolts and the supposed Diaspora, on Galilee’s development during the second century AD.