Between Monastery and Society in Late Antique Coptic Egypt – University of Copenhagen

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Between Monastery and Society in Late Antique Coptic Egypt

The archaeological remains of the Egyptian desert bear witness to a curious phenomenon. In Late Antiquity (3rd-8th centuries CE), monks and hermits populated the desolated landscape, living as brethren in large walled communities and residing in caves and abandoned Pharaonic-period tombs. Traditionally perceived in terms of rejection of and isolation from the surrounding world, the social and economic interaction with contemporary societies is a poorly understood element of monastic life.
The White Monastery in Sohag and the Coptic reuse of Pharaonic-period tombs at Tell al-Amarna form the centre of an extensive examination using modern archaeological research combined with comparative anthropological investigations of living monasteries. A focus on commercial production, religious consumption and the organisation of monastic space offers a new approach to monasteries as an integral part of contemporary society and life. Thereby, monasteries are brought back from the isolation of the desert and into our broader understanding of the social world of Late Antiquity.

 
 
 
 
 

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to The Danish Institute in Damascus for funding a survey of the archaeological remains at the Red Monastery, carried out in spring 2011.
I would like to thank the following for their continuous help, support and invaluable sharing of material, information and archaeological data:
 
Dr. Gillian Pyke
Director, Panehsy Church Project
Archaeological Director, White Monastery Project
 
Professor Dr. Stephen Davies
Director, White Monastery Project
Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University
 
Professor Dr. Elisabeth Bolman
Director, Red Monastery Project
Associate Professor, Temple University
 
Links:
Yale - Egyptology - The White Monastery Project
Armana Project