DEChriM Research Project
Deconstructing Early Christian Metanarratives: Fourth-Century Egyptian Christianity in the Light of Material Evidence, ERC-funded
DEChriM (Deconstructing Early Christian Metanarratives: Fourth-Century Egyptian Christianity in the Light of Material Evidence) is a research project funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant. Led by Prof. Victor Ghica and part of MF CASR, the project runs from 1 September 2019 to 31 August 2024.
A massive corpus of unedited archaeological sources collected over the last two decades from the deserts of Egypt, by far the richest available for the fourth century, sheds a radical new light on Christianity in Egypt. Building on this new dataset, DEChriM reassesses phenomena and developments that are defining for Egypt's Christianisation, such as the chronology and dynamics of the evangelisation, the role played in this process by imperial legislation and institutions, the balance between rural and urban Christian communities, the social and cultural profile of the conveyors of Christianity, strategies for negotiating Christian identity, etc. Grounded in the archaeological record, DEChriM also addresses key issues relating to material culture through, among other methods, producing a catalogue of fourth-century Christian archaeological material (monuments and artefacts), providing absolute dates and occupation sequences for the most significant monuments, systematising chrono-typologically fourth-century Christian architecture and producing a long overdue catalogue of the ceramic production of the fourth century in Egypt. As suggested already by the pretreatment of the corpus, the picture of fourth-century Egyptian Christianity emerging from this mass of data shifts the paradigm of historiography of Late Antique Egypt.
While deconstructing the prevailing metanarratives on fourth-century Christian Egypt, the project aims for hypercontextualised regional micro-narratives valid for some regions of Egypt, but potentially relevant for other provinces of the Late Roman Empire. An inter- and trans-disciplinary collective endeavour calling upon a variety of disciplines, methods and techniques, DEChriM constitutes the first in-depth regional study in fourth-century Christian archaeology.