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Archaeological research

sbf logo 1 As a centre of archaeological research the Studium Biblicum specializes in the study of the Christian presence in the Holy Land witnessed in the sanctuaries of the Late-Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader periods. Historically important for the geography of the Gospel are the discoveries of the localities of Nazaret, Capharnaum, Magdala and Bethany.

* The excavations in Nazaret, started by Fr. Prosper Viaud at the beginning of this century, were resumed by Fr. Bellarmino Bagatti in 1954. Along with the discovery of the ancient village, he found the first signs of the Christian presence witnessed by the Christian graffiti scratched on plaster found under the Crusader and Byzantine basilica of the Annunciation.

* At Capharnaum, the excavations started by Fr. Gaudenzio Orfali in the synagogue in 1921, were taken up again in 1968 and have been continued to date by Frs. Virgilio Corbo and Stanislao Loffreda. They have discovered among the ruins of the houses of the ancient village, the insula sacra (the sacred insula) with the domus-ecclesia (house-church) of St. Peter under the Byzantine octagonal basilica. At the same time, they have unearthed under the Jewish synagogue, structures dating to the Late-Roman period.

* For the First Century, which is the setting of the New Testament, we point to the excavations of the Herodion palace near Bethlehem. This work was carried out by Fr. V. Corbo during the years 1962-67. The same archaeologist directed the excavations of the Herodian fortress of Machaerous in Jordan, in which, according to Josephus Flavius, John the Baptist was jailed and murdered.

* One of the main excavation and restoration projects undertaken is the one at Mount Nebo in Jordan. The project started in 1933 under the direction of Fr. Sylvester Saller.The work was focused mainly on the Memorial Church of Moses Prophet and Man of God. This Memorial was built by the Christians of the region in the IVth century on the western peak of Siyagha. Around it a monastery developed in the Byzantine period.

* Excavations were expanded to the nearby ruins of Khirbet el-Mukhayyat on the southern peak of Mount Nebo, where the Iron age fortress and the Roman-Byzantine village identified with Nebo are located.

* Since 1984, the Studium has excavated two Byzantine churches in the 'Uyoun Mousa valley, north of the mountain.

* At the same time, the Studium is cooperating with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities in exacavating several monuments of the city of Madaba, such as the church of the Virgin, the Hippolythus Hall, the Cathedral and the Burnt Palace.

* In the summer of 1986 work started at Umm al-Rasas,important ruins located in the steppe 30 km south east of Madaba, with the rediscovery of the ancient name of the ruins, Kastron Mefaa, in the inscriptions in the rich mosaic floor of the church of St. Stephen built in the Umayyad period, with the biblical implications of this discovery.. Moreover, a city plan of Kastron Mefaa was found along with these inscriptions. In the summer of 1989 a second plan of the city of Kastron Mefaa depicted in the mosaic floor of the church of the Lions was unearthed.

* At Umm er-Rasas, like on Mount Nebo, Madaba and in other sites of the Holy Land, archaeological and historical research in the Roman-Byzantine and Arab periods, (the main field of the scientific interest of the Studium), has proven to have deep historical implications for the biblical world of both the Old and the New Testament, based on the continuity of life in the same land by the same populations, Jews, Christians and Muslims.

(see an index page with links to present excavations)

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Created/updated: Thursday, December 6, 2001 by John Abela ofm
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