2018-2019 Grant in Aid of Research

Archaeological Evidence of the Role of Women in Early Christianity

Carina Prestes

I will undertake a research trip to study Christian women in the Greek-speaking areas of the West, namely, Magna Graecia - South Italy, Sicily, and the other southern Italian islands. Since I will join the Andrews archaeological excavation team in San Miceli, Sicily, Italy this summer, I decided to take the opportunity to focus on this part of the Roman Empire. Combining this grant with the archaeological dig will enable me to cover the larger territory of the surrounding region.

The specific situation is that the Andrews team found at least three women buried inside a fourth-century Christian basilica in San Miceli. Also, there is a tombstone in the Palermo archaeological museum that is relevant for the discussion but hasn’t been studied yet. In addition, Sicily is the home of two female martyrs from the third and fourth centuries, St. Agatha and St. Lucy. The high occurrence of female religious icons is not contained only to Sicily. It is also quite common in South Italy as well.

Hence, making an inventory about the archaeological artifacts that point to women’s participation in ministry in early Christianity is critical. In order to have such an inventory, it is important for me to visit ancient basilicas, museums, cemeteries, catacombs, and archaeological sites in Magna Graecia.