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Returning to the Caves of Mystery: texts, archaeology and the origins of Christian topography and pilgrimage

Dark, K. (2020) Returning to the Caves of Mystery: texts, archaeology and the origins of Christian topography and pilgrimage. Strata: The Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, 38. pp. 103-124. ISSN 0266-2442

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Textual evidence is shown to support the pre-Constantinian origins of later Christian topography – in the sense of identifying places in a landscape – and pilgrimage in the Holy Land and a small group of artificial or semi-artificial caves is identified pre-dating, and forming the focus for, fourth-century pilgrimage churches associated with the Gospel narrative. The construction or modification of these caves is interpreted as marking places of Christian veneration, and this, combined with the textual evidence, suggests the existence of a Christian topography of the Holy Land prior to the earliest recorded pilgrimages. It is proposed that this topography developed incrementally from the second to fourth centuries as a result of local decision rather than central religious authority, suggesting that the Christian pilgrimage centres known from late fourth-century texts originated through a gradual process of self-organisation based on the Gospel narrative rather than fourth-century imperial planning. The paper is a revised version of the author's Royal Anthropological Institute Henry Myers Lecture.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Economics
ID Code:92321
Uncontrolled Keywords:archaeology; history; Christianity; pilgrimage; caves; tombs; cave-churches
Publisher:The Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society

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