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Title: The culture of rock-cut cemeteries and artificial ritual caves in Roman and Byzantine Malta
Other Titles: Caves and ritual in Medieval Europe, AD 500–1500
Authors: Buhagiar, Mario
Keywords: Malta -- History -- Classical period, 218 B.C.-535 A.D.
Malta -- History -- Byzantine rule, 535-870
Catacombs -- Malta -- History
Caves -- Malta -- Religious aspects
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Oxbow Books
Citation: Buhagiar, M. (2018). The culture of rock-cut cemeteries and artificial ritual caves in Roman and Byzantine Malta. In K.A. Bergsvik, & M. Dowd (Eds.), Caves and ritual in Medieval Europe, AD 500–1500 (pp. 185-200). Oxford: Oxbow Books.
Abstract: The Maltese islands have a rich tradition of rock-cut funerary architecture, which, in Late Antiquity, conditioned burial practice and associated rituals between approximately the fi rst century BC and the seventh century AD. Caves were central to this development because cemeteries frequently evolved from the re-cutting and elaboration of natural caves or, in their absence, the creation of artifi cial ones to meet burial requirements. In both instances the architecture was a synthesis of Leventine Phoenico-Punic prototypes and Hellenistic infl uences that arrived by way of Sicily and North Africa. This chapter discusses the shift from the Carthaginian shaft-and-chamber tomb to the Late Roman and Early Christian miniature catacomb, and shows how the assimilation of different infl uences resulted in a diversifi ed sepulchral richness. Architectural and decorative features are discussed while taking into account apotropaic and eschatological symbolism. Rock engravings and paintings are explored from an iconographic and art historical perspective. Special consideration is given to the ritual of funerary meals, which gave cemeteries the very special and almost unique feature of rock-cut cylindrical tables cut from a single piece with a U-shaped dining couch of the stibadium typology. This chapter provides a meaningful background to the cave-related practices that were a major phenomenon of late medieval and early modern Malta.
ISBN: 9781785708329
Appears in Collections:Scholarly Works - FacArtHa

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