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Early Christianity in Egypt’s Western Desert: The Fourth-Century Church at Amheida

Nicola Aravecchia, Washington University in St. Louis, Fellow 2020–2021, Spring

The fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks gave me the opportunity to make considerable progress toward the completion of my current book project, which focuses on a fourth-century church excavated at the site of Amheida (ancient Trimithis) in Egypt’s Western Desert. The archaeological evidence from this church sheds light on several issues that are key to our understanding of early Christianity in Egypt, including the cultural and socioeconomic context in which it flourished, the dissemination of distinctive features of Christian art and architecture, and the transformation of the built landscape that occurred with the appearance of Christianity.

During my spring semester at Dumbarton Oaks, I accessed numerous bibliographical resources that were made available to the fellows online. I gathered a rich body of primary and secondary sources on early churches from Egypt and the broader Mediterranean region, which allowed me to write three chapters of my monograph, as well as a significant portion of a fourth. I also completed revisions on two article manuscripts recently accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Notwithstanding the challenges caused by COVID-19, I am very grateful that my remote fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks offered me the chance to actively pursue my research, as well as allowing me to benefit from conversations about my work with wonderful new colleagues and friends.