2017-2018 Grant in Aid of Research

Serapis in Hisban: A Historical Narrative of Enculturation of an Ancient Jordanian City

Vivian A. Laughlin

This research project deals with the spread of the Egyptian Serapis cult into Jordan—specifically at the Andrews University site of Tall Hisban. The Serapis cult has been traced throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and into Italy between 30 B.C. and A.D. 230. Previous research in the Eastern Mediterranean has reported material culture that has either been manufactured during the Ptolemaic Period, or depicts influences of either a Serapis, Egyptian, or Greco-Roman nature. However, comparatively little is known about the Serapis cult phenomenon in Jordan. We have recently discovered evidence that it may have reached Hesban as well—one of Andrews’ Madaba Plains Project sites. Specifically, we suspect the presence of a temple dedicated to Serapis at the site. Therefore, this research will focus on Tall Hisban, where I will study the architectural and other remains for signs of the Serapis cult. This would be a major discovery, which would be important for understanding the Hisban site. It would also support other research that I am currently undertaking on the Serapis cult throughout the Mediterranean world, which seeks to demonstrate the extent to which the Hellenistic-Egyptian Serapis cult was part of the political prowess of the Roman Emperors in the region.