OCLA: Research Projects
Hercules and the Ceryneian hind,
4th-century gold-glass from Rome.
The individual research being carried out in Oxford by OCLA scholars can be found by following the links to their personal web-sites. Listed here are the collaborative research projects which are based in Oxford, or in which OCLA scholars are centrally involved.
Ancient Alexandria Project
Alexandria had a unique role in the late antique East as the only major city there with an unbroken development of classical art, architecture and scholarship going back to the Hellenistic period. It continued to radiate architectural innovation and artistic influence, like its famous lighthouse, through the Byzantine and early Islamic periods (The Architecture of Alexandria and Egypt, 300 B.C. to A.D. 700, London 2007). The focus of the current phase of the Ancient Alexandria Project, directed by Judith McKenzie, has moved from architecture to late antique Alexandrian art, its characteristics and influence in a wider Mediterranean context, especially in Syro-Palestine on Christian and early Islamic monuments.
For further details, see Ancient Alexandria Project (PDF)
Ancient Commentators on Aristotle
The ‘Ancient Commentators on Aristotle’ project, based at King’s College London and directed by Richard Sorabji, has already produced 70 volumes of annotated translation of late Greek Philosophy from the period AD 200–600, and is now beginning to include translations of lost works recently discovered in Greek or Arabic versions. It has recently received a new four-year grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and has commissioned a total of over 100 volumes.
Androna (Andarin), Syria — Excavations and Survey
Marlia Mango (Co-director with Dr Ugdeh of Hama and Prof. Strube of Heidelberg)
Excavation and survey of the large desert settlement of Androna were begun in 1997. Androna is recorded as a late Roman mansio on one of the routes from Palmyra to Antioch, and as a Byzantine kome renowned for its wine. The site has the remains of 12 identified churches and of two massive extramural reservoirs, and has produced over 50 Greek inscriptions. Settlement continued into the Umayyad period. The team from Oxford has concentrated on the excavation of a sixth-century bath-building at the centre of the settlement, and on survey-work within Androna’s territory – exploring the area’s agricultural potential, identifying ancient rural settlements, and investigating Androna’s remarkable water-management structures (which include six qanat networks, bringing water underground over long distances).
For further details, see: Androna Project
Aphrodisias was one of the most important cities of ancient Asia Minor, and for several decades has been the subject of a major programme of excavation, conservation and research by the Institute of Fine Arts and the Faculty of Arts and Science of New York University. The project is currently directed by Bert Smith. Much of the evidence uncovered, including a uniquely rich collection of statues and statue bases, dates form the late antique period.
For further details, see: Aphrodisias website
Below the Salt: A Study of the Human Remains and Associated Material from the Salt Mine at Chahrabad, Zanjan, Iran
Institute of Archaeology's Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art
Bible of Edessa Project
The Peshitta Syriac translation of the Hebrew Bible was probably the work of non-rabbinic Jews in northern Mesopotamia (Osrhoene or Adiabene) in the second century CE. The Peshitta Institute in Leiden is carrying out a project to provide English translations of all the books, with notes on the relationship to the Hebrew and Greek texts of scripture, and on their reception history. The members of the editorial board of this project are: Prof. Bas ter Haar Romeny (Leiden), Dr Wido van Peursen (Leiden), Prof. Jan Joosten (Strasbourg), Dr Alison Salvesen (Oxford), and Dr Gill Greenberg (London).
Byzantine Medical Manuals: Construction and Use
Professor Peregrine Horden, Dr. Barbara Zipser
Start Date: May 2007; End Date: April 2010
Funding Source: Wellcome Trust; Funding Amount: £129,203
The project is a study in Byzantine medical texts. The Byzantine empire had a vigorous and long-lived medical culture that deserves study in its own right, not just because it was the conduit of ancient medicine to medieval Islam and Europe. Yet very little is known about it. Just a fraction of the over 2,000 Greek medical manuscripts that survive have been properly catalogued and analysed, and this is partly because of their chaotic appearance. However, since they were mostly texts intended to be used, there must have been some principles of construction that would enable the reader to find what he required. The project will seek to uncover those patterns of organisation and show how the texts could have been deployed in a variety of historical settings, educational and therapeutic.
Celtic Inscribed Stones project (CISP)
This project, successfully completed at University College London between 1996 and 2002 under the direction of Wendy Davies, has produced an online database of all inscriptions on stone from all Celtic countries, from the period 400–c.1000.
Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources
David Howlett and Carolinne White
For further details, see the Dictionary website
European Seminar on Advanced Jewish Studies:
Greek Scripture and the Rabbis
Project Leader: Dr Alison Salvesen
Up to the present, views of Scripture in Judaism from antiquity to the rise of Islam have been shaped by the fact that rabbinic literature is written in Hebrew and Aramaic, even though many Jews in the eastern Mediterranean and their religious leaders knew only Greek. Even the recent Cambridge History of Judaism (2006) failed to include a chapter on the role of Greek language and literature. The purpose of the project will be an investigation of Jewish Greek versions of the Bible among Jewish communities of the first to sixth centuries CE, both from rabbinic sources and from internal indicators in what remains of the translations themselves.
For further details, see the European Seminar on Advanced Jewish Studies website
Jeremy Johns (Co-Director with Alison McQuitty)
A multidisiciplinary study of Khirbat Faris, a village in the Ard al-Karak in central Jordan, from the 7th century A.D. until the present. The project combines archaeological excavation and field survey, with artefactual, historical, palaeo-environmental, and social anthropological studies. Fieldwork is complete and final publication is in progress, with the first of three projected volumes in press.
Foundations of European Space
This project, funded by Spain’s national research council and run by Julio Escalona Monge, examines ‘scale change’ during the early middle ages (the impact on society of differences of scale, in such things as density of settlement), and involves scholars from Spain, Britain and Italy. The project, which has involved developing an effective method for electronic historical and archaeological catography, is currently nearing completion, and will result in an electronic atlas and a book.
For further details, see: http://www.ih.csic.es/proyectos/proyec_mediev.html
The ‘Hexapla Project’ is collecting and publishing the fragmentary biblical texts which pertain to the Hexapla, produced by the Christian scholar Origen in the third century CE. These texts are all that remain of early revisions of an original translation (from Hebrew into Greek) of the Jewish Scriptures commonly known as the Septuagint, and represent a key witness to the thought and worldview of Judaism in Late Antiquity and also to interaction between Christians and Jews. The members of the editorial board are: Dr Peter Gentry (Louisville, Kentucky and the Septuaginta-Unternehmung, Göttingen), Dr Alison Salvesen (Oxford), and Prof. Bas ter Haar Romeny (Leiden).
For further details, see: Hexapla Project website
Last Statues of Antiquity
Bert Smith and Bryan Ward-Perkins
On 4 May 2012, ‘The Last Statues of Antiquity’ project published its on-line searchable catalogue of all the evidence for new, newly dedicated, or newly re-worked statuary in Late Antiquity, with some 2600 fully searchable entries, including multiple photographs of many of the objects, and transcriptions and translations of all statue-base inscriptions: http://laststatues.classics.ox.ac.uk/
The project will also produce a print volume, discussing continuities and change within the well-established Roman habit of erecting statues to political masters and benefactors.
The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
For further details, see Last Statues of Antiquity website
Local Cults and the End of Paganism in the Eastern Mediterranean
Cultic practice in the East involved a sophisticated amalgam of local and classical culture. What at first appear to be sanctuaries with imported Greek or Roman features on closer inspection reveal continuity of local religious practice. This is demonstrated from new studies of archaeological evidence in Greco-Roman Egypt and Arabia/Nabataea, especially from two sites in particular: Alexandria’s most important pagan sanctuary, the Serapeum (temple of Serapis); and the Nabataean temple complex at Khirbet et-Tannur north of Petra in Jordan. It is also possible to detect how pagan worship ended in both places, with unexpected results. When other examples in Egypt are considered in the wider context of the Greco-Roman East by comparison with examples in Syro-Palestine further clues are provided. They reveal a complex and nuanced picture of the interaction between Christians and pagans: as seen in Christian treatment of formerly pagan sacred space, cult statues and iconoclasm, in a part of the world where similar issues still arise between religions.
A multidisciplinary study of the Upper Belice Valley in Western Sicily from the Upper Palaeolithic until 1500 A.D. The archaeological field survey is complete and its publication is in progress. The edition and study of the documentary sources by Jeremy Johns, Nadia Jamil, and Alex Metcalfe (University of Lancaster) is proceeding.
Oxford Roman Economy Project
The Oxford Roman Economy Project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and directed by Alan Bowman and Andrew Wilson, will provide a detailed analysis of the major economic activities of the Roman period, using quantifiable bodies of artefactual and documentary evidence and placing them in the broader structural context of regional variation, distribution, size and nature of markets, supply and demand. The chronological parameters are 100 BC to c. AD 350, covering the period of greatest imperial expansion and economic growth (to c.AD 200), followed by a century conventionally perceived as one of contraction or decline.
For further details, see: Oxford Roman Economy Project website
Tchalenko Archive Project
The Georges Tchalenko Archive, housed in Oxford’s Institute of Archaeology, contains the working notes and papers, drawings, maps, and up to 20,000 photographs of Georges Tchalenko who worked for over 40 years on the exceptionally well-preserved late Roman/early Byzantine settlements and architecture of northern Syria. The project, which is on-going, is digitizing and assembling on a database this remarkable research-resource, in order to make it available to the scholarly world.