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2007-08 Humanities Research Groups

"Earthly Jerusalem: From the Romans to the Fatimids "

Sponsor: Cogut Center for the Humanities

Primary Coordinator: Katharina Galor, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Program in Judaic Studies, Brown University

Research Group Participants: Steven Lubar, Professor, American Civilization, Brown University

Ian Straughn, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University

Carolyn Swan, Graduate Student, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University

Gregg Gardner, Graduate Student, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University

Gina Borromeo, Curator of Ancient Art, RISD Museum, Rhode Island School of Design

Joan Branham, Visiting Associate Professor, Women's Studies and Early Christianity and Judaism, Harvard University

Proceeding with the groundwork laid in Exhibiting Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic Jerusalem, the Earthly Jerusalem research group will convene on a monthly basis during the fall semester 2007 to continue to discuss the thematic parameters of a traveling exhibit on Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic Jerusalem to take place in 2010.

The main goals for the semester will be a) to finalize the venues of the exhibit; b) to establish the list of objects and supporting educational material to be included; c) to determine the catalogue format and content; and d) to finish the grant applications to other funding sources.

Two venues, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum and the J. Paul Getty Museum, have been selected for this exhibition. Members of the group will visit other museums to identify a third venue.

The exhibition entitled Earthly Jerusalem: From the Romans to the Fatimids will open in 2010 at the RISD Museum in Providence, RI. While the general public is keenly aware of the political conflicts past and present surrounding Jerusalem, this exhibition will explore what is generally not known to the public, namely, the lives of its residents – the Jews, pagans, Christians and Muslims who lived in the ancient city from its capture by Pompey in 63 BCE to the end of the Fatimid period in 1099 CE. This millennium witnessed not only the establishment of a strong Roman (non-monotheistic) presence, but also the crucial moments relevant to the foundations of the three Abrahamic faiths. This is a period during which their concepts and rules, as they are still followed to this day, were laid. The objects and written materials used and produced by these diverse peoples will be assembled to create a richly layered picture of their traditions and communal lives. Archaeological finds from Jerusalem and the surrounding area will share center stage with art objects from museums and private collections throughout the world.

Situated between the Mediterranean coastline and the western bank of the Jordan River, Jerusalem was one of the great urban centers of the ancient world. Many times destroyed and rebuilt, it holds numerous layers and building remains spanning three millennia. Monotheism had its hold on Jerusalem from the tenth century BCE when it become a holy site for the Israelites. Further cultural complexity in the history of Jerusalem is reflected in its early pagan roots, which existed in the city as early as the tenth century BCE and saw a revivial in Hellenistic and Roman times. This Greco-Roman heritage, which left its imprints on the Jewish inhabitants of the region, continued to influence strongly the Byzantine and early Islamic cultures that followed. The three great monotheistic religions—first Judaism, then Christianity and, finally in the seventh century, Islam—claimed Jerusalem as a Holy City. Today, some of the holiest sites to these world religions survive there. As a result the city continues to capture the imagination of people throughout the world. Though Jerusalem is described, perceived and imagined in a thousand different ways, the objects selected for this exhibition reflect a more concrete, even mundane, reality. This is not an exhibition focusing on Jerusalem's religions; it is primarily a reflection of its people through roughly 1000 years.