How can material artifacts help illuminate the religious lives of women in antiquity? In what ways do archaeological and art historical studies recover women’s religious perspectives and experiences that the literary record misses or underrepresents? The authors of the essays in this volume set out to answer such questions in fascinating, new case studies of women and ancient religions in the Near East and Mediterranean world. They cover a broad historical, geographic, and religious spectrum as they explore women’s lives from the time of ancient Egypt in the second millennium BCE into the early medieval period, from the Syrian Desert to Western Europe, in the religious traditions of Egypt, Canaan, Greece, Rome, ancient Israel, early Judaism, and early Christianity. Working at the intersections of religion, archaeology, art history, and women’s history, these authors make fresh contributions to interdisciplinary studies, and their essays will be of interest to students and scholars across these academic fields.
Mark D. Ellison is associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University.
Catherine Gines Taylor is Hugh W. Nibley Postdoctoral Fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University.
Carolyn Osiek is Charles Fischer Professor of New Testament emerita at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University.
Mark D. Ellison, Catherine Gines Taylor, and Carolyn Osiek
1.Keynote: Between the Holy and the Ordinary: Women’s Lives in Early Christianity
2.Transferring and Transforming Religious Identity Abroad: The Personal Adornment of an Egyptian Woman in Canaan
Krystal V. L. Pierce
3.Besieged Maternity: Reading Textual Cannibalism in the Hebrew Bible through Material Culture
Susannah M. Larry
4.Material Expression and Mantic Performance: An Examination of Women’s Religious Experience at the Time of Josiah
Amanda Colleen Brown
5.“Part of the Same Miracle”: Women and Visual Art in the Dura Europos Synagogue
Sarah E. G. Fein
6.Female Experience at the Tomb: Ritual Commemoration and Sarcophagus Imagery
Sarah Madole Lewis
7.Assessing the Roles of Women in New Syrian Funerary Reliefs in Japanese Collections
Kerry Hull and Lincoln H. Blumell
8.Foreseeing the Divine Bridal Chamber: A Household of Mosaics from Shahba-Philippopolis
Catherine Gines Taylor
9.Reimagining and Reimaging Eve in Early Christianity
Mark D. Ellison
10.Female Materialities at the Altar: Mary’s Priestly Motherhood and Women’s Eucharistic Experience in Late Antique and Byzantine Churches
11.Rings on her Fingers: Merovingian Rings and Religion in Late Antiquity
The fascinating essays in this book make an important contribution to the scholarship seeking to recover women’s religious experience in antiquity. They show how archaeological and iconographic evidence can be invaluable in the quest to recover the lived experience of women in the past—from ancient Egypt to late ancient Christianity. Using material remains, the authors provide compelling arguments about women’s religiosity that often differ from the impression one gets from texts alone. This readable and well-illustrated book is a must for both scholars and general readers.
This new study is important for its focus on retrieving women’s experiences in ancient religion through evidence from material culture—areas so often underrepresented in past discussions. Its eleven well-illustrated chapters offer a rich spread of case studies that cross time and space, people and objects, from an Egyptian woman of the thirteenth–twelfth centuries BCE to Merovingian rings of the fifth to eight century CE. Individually fresh and insightful about women’s devotional experiences (some material has not been published before), they also have great strength as a collection since the rewards of such an ambitious range of topics are the many common questions and issues to emerge.
This volume presents new material and asks searching questions about what material culture can tell us about women’s religion in early Christianity and the ancient Mediterranean. As one of the editors says, if some of them “are ultimately unanswerable, it does not necessarily follow that they are not worth asking and pursuing,” and they are to be congratulated for opening exciting new perspectives in the growing field of material religion.
This excellent collection of essays by scholars illuminates the question of women’s religious practices from different academic fields, different times and places, and different faith traditions. Because the authors also bring different methodologies to their subject and integrate material evidence into their analyses, this work will be an absolutely invaluable resource for teachers and students as well as general readers.
Material Culture and Women's Religious Experience in Antiquity is a veritable compendium bringing together invaluable sources from a wide geographical, cultural, and chronological range, accompanied by offering expert guidance on how to understand them. The book gives us the tools to think comparatively about how the women in different societies addressed similar challenges, and to gain a better understanding of which differences in the source record are caused by differences among ancient societies, and which by the hazards of preservation. This is a book I expect to return to again and again - a splendid achievement.
With a sustained focus on women’s interactions with and commissioning of sacred objects, images, and spaces, this collection enriches and enlivens scholarly conversations about domestic religious practices, visual histories of biblical interpretation, and the generative role of women’s religious participation in antiquity. Readers will encounter a wide range of archaeological and textual evidence from diverse geographies. The sheer diversity of materials in this volume—a diversity rarely found in a single collection—makes it an invaluable resource for anyone working at the intersections of religion, material culture, and ancient history.