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Transforming Monumental Landscapes in Late Antique Egypt: Monastic Dwellings in Legal Documents from Western Thebes

From: Journal of Early Christian Studies
Volume 15, Number 2, Summer 2007
pp. 239-273 | 10.1353/earl.2007.0036


The conversion of temples into churches may offer the most vivid portrayal of cultural transformation in the architectural environment of late antique Egypt; however, the landscape was arguably more radically reworked when early Christian ascetics adapted earlier funerary architecture to domestic and other purposes. The rich archaeological remains of late sixth-eighth century Western Thebes, together with literary texts concerning the region's inhabitants, allow us to explore the practical and ideological implications of adaptive reuse of funerary architecture in a single circumscribed region. This paper concentrates on the vocabulary of space used in one genre of legal documents unearthed at Western Thebes. Wills (διαθήκαι) describe monastic property located in the region and offer one point of access by which we may explore how the region's inhabitants understood their monumental landscape.

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