This research unit provides an interdisciplinary forum for biblical scholars and material culture specialists, seeking to understand the mortuary rituals of Mediterranean Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity both in their broader (‘pagan’) contexts and in relation to each other. The term ‘mortuary rituals’ refers to death-related ritual practices, such as the treatment of the body, mourning, commemoration, and continued interaction with the deceased (e.g., visits to the burial place, festivals for the dead). These rituals were facilitated by various forms of material culture, which still leave their traces: inscriptions, burial vessels, grave goods, funerary architecture, feasting accessories, etc. It is now generally acknowledged that the strict division between the mortuary rituals of ‘pagans’, Jews, and Christians is overly simplistic, also in terms of their material features. Since Jews and Christians were integral parts of their communities, their mortuary rituals were part and parcel of their cultural surroundings; at the same time, these started to take on distinctive features, often understood in terms of deliberate demarcation. This is the starting point for considering questions like these ritual practitioners’ attitudes towards death, the identities of the deceased and their relatives, or the boundaries between this world and the next.
Jews, Christians, material culture, mortuary rituals, Late Antiquity