Disclaimer / Avis de non-responsabilité

Current Research

A Critical Edition of the Coptic Life of Aaron, with J. van der Vliet (University of Leiden/Radboud University Nijmegen)

The Life of Aaron is one of the most interesting and important hagiographical works in Coptic literature. The work contains descriptions of the lives of ascetic monks on the southern Egyptian frontier in the fourth and early fifth centuries, and was probably written in the sixth century. Even though the first edition of this work was already published by E.A. Wallis Budge in 1915, it remained virtually untouched until quite recently and a critical edition was required. Since 2011, I work in a collaborative project with J. van der Vliet  to fulfill this desideratum. The new edition will include a new text on the basis of the only completely preserved, 10th-century manuscript  of the Life of Aaron in the British Library, a new English translation, and an exhaustive literary and historical commentary, as well as a comparative analysis of  the three fragments preserved of the earliest witness to the work, a 6th- or 7th-century manuscript on papyrus. Expected date of monograph: 2016.

The Khnum Temple Graffiti Project

This project, launched in 2013 under the aegis of the Swiss Institute for Architectural and Archaeological Research on Ancient Egypt and the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), is a sequel to the ‘Isis Temple Graffiti Project’ that was sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2008-2011), and that resulted in the monograph Syene I. The Figural and Textual Graffiti from the Temple of Isis at Aswan (Mainz/Darmstadt, 2012). It has resulted in the recording and digitizing of 195 graffiti on the forecourt of the temple of Khnum on Elephantine island. These graffiti, consisting of both figures and texts, paint a detailed picture of the personal religious piety of the visitors to the temple  in the Roman and Late Antique periods, when the area – like the Isis temple at Aswan – included a church. The publication that results from the project will include detailed descriptions of all graffiti and systematic studies of groups of graffiti, such as animals, feet and game boards. Expected date of publication: 2016.

‘I Wish to Offer a Sacrifice to God Today’: Religious Violence in Late Antique Egypt

The period of Late Antiquity (4th-7th centuries) has long been perceived, and is still often perceived, through the lens of (Christian) literary works, which tell dramatic stories of violence against temples, statues and even ‘pagans’, and may give the impression that this was a period of widespread religious violence. Egypt, with iconic events such as the destruction of the Serapeum at Alexandria and the anti-‘pagan’ crusade of Abbot Shenoute in the region of Panopolis, has often been seen as a good illustration of the pervasive nature of religious violence in the Late Antique world. This project takes a different view. By using Religious Studies theories and models on religious violence and including all the other sources available from Egypt – papyri, inscriptions and archaeological remains – a more nuanced and complex picture arises, which shows that events were often dramatized for ideological purposes and that religious violence was the exception rather than the rule. This study, the first ever book-length synthesis on religious violence in Late Antique Egypt, will be presented in the form of a series of regional case studies, which allows us to view occasional outbreaks of religious violence in the context of specific local or regional circumstances and as such continues my work already done on the Aswan region (Philae and the End of Ancient Egyptian Religion: A Regional Study of Religious Transformation [Leuven: Peeters, 2008]). The project also overlaps with the project on the Life of Aaron, which is one of the key texts for religious violence in Late Antique Egypt.  The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2015-2020) and should eventually lead to a monograph.