le levant: carrefours de lantiquité tardive

espace, rites, textes, et quotidien

late antique crossroads in the levant

space, rituals, texts, and daily life


An international scholarly research colloquium was held in Montreal from November 1–4, 2006. The colloquium was concerned with developing a greater understanding of the monumental religious and social developments that took place in the Roman provinces of Syria during the third through sixth centuries C.E. This region, then as now, was a cultural, commercial, military, and religious crossroads. In the years from 200 to 600 C.E., moreover, this region saw the flourishing of distinct forms of early Christianity, as well as important developments in Judaism and in the interplay of Roman religions with local forms of devotion. The area is rich in archaeological remains, largely unknown in the West, not least of which are the hundreds of churches, monasteries, and deserted town, many with stunning architecture and mosaics. In addition, many writings remain from this area in this period: poetry, prayers, stories, theological treatises, instructions for liturgy, and teachings about daily life.

In the past decade, the study of Late Antique Syria and the surrounding regions (the Levant) has attracted increasing scholarly attention. It is essential to bring together the study of the writings that we have with the wealth of archaeological information. Discussing these sources together allows for excellent insight into the important developments in religious, cultural, and everyday life in the borderlands between the Roman and Persian empires in the prelude to the arrival of Islam.

This four-day research colloquium was jointly organized by researchers from three of Montreal’s main educational institutions: McGill University, the Université de Montréal, and Concordia University, as well as the Musée des beaux-arts, in conjunction with members of the wider community. It brought together approximately thirty archaeologists, scholars of early Christianity and late-antique Judaism, classicists, and art historians from Europe, Canada, the United States, and the Near East. We involved both senior scholars and graduate students in this interdisciplinary discussion so as to bring together a wide range of perspectives and experiences, as well as to nurture new scholars in a growing field of study.

The colloquium was open to all interested students and researchers. It involved the presentation and discussion of scholarly papers, as well as opportunities to learn about new discoveries from the Near East dating to late antiquity. Students had many educational opportunities not only to discover the fascinating materials from this region, but also to participate in discussion of research methods and approaches. We also mounted a public exhibition of photographs from Syrian church mosaics that researchers and law officers in Montreal played a key role in restoring to Syria.

The colloquium will result in the publication of a book with the proceedings of the conference accompanied by photographs illustrating the archaeological finds. This publication, much like a volume that accompanies a museum exhibit, will present the results of the conference in a format attractive not only to scholars but also to wider audience. The topics of this colloquium will have a great appeal to the general interest in the art and culture of antiquity, as well as in the Near East as a place of cultural interchange.



Prof. John M. Fossey, D.ès L., FRSC, FSA, RPA
Curator for Archaeology (Ancient Cultures), Musée des beaux-arts, Montreal
Professor Emeritus of Art History, McGill University