Biblical Archaeology Review 36:4, July/August 2010

Archaeological Views: Lighting the Way

Material Culture Illuminates Religious Identity

By Gregg E. Gardner

It started in 2006 at Apollonia-Arsuf, a picturesque archaeological site excavated jointly by Brown University and Tel Aviv University that sits on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea about 14 miles north of Tel Aviv. That summer, I served as an area supervisor, overseeing a trench whose finds dated to the Roman and Byzantine periods.

Like all sites in Israel and the Near East, Apollonia was rich in ceramic finds. Because pottery vessels generally are not used for very long, yet their discarded fragments survive for centuries, ceramics are the most widely used tool for dating archaeological layers.a Oil lamps made from clay are especially valuable because their unique shape makes them readily identifiable. Even a tiny fragment will often suffice to establish a lamp’s typology and age.

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