In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Archaeology, Greco-Roman

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Methods
  • Theory
  • Colonialist Legacies
  • Digital Resources and Databases
  • Journals and Other Serial Publications

Biblical Studies Archaeology, Greco-Roman
Jennifer A. Quigley, Sarah F. Porter
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 November 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0288


Greco-Roman archaeology is an indispensable source of scholarship for biblical scholars. Those who work in a largely textual discipline benefit from conversation with archaeologists to situate literary data within its historical material contexts. Greco-Roman archaeology can also provide insight into the economic, social, political, and religious lives of persons in the ancient world, including marginalized persons whose lives are often obscured by elite literary material. Lastly, Greco-Roman archaeology and biblical studies have intertwined histories and entanglements with colonialism, and comparative work helps to uncover those legacies, especially where they are still operative in the present. While biblical scholars might long for evidence that directly connects to specific individuals in the earliest Christ communities (and thus to the texts of the New Testament), archaeological evidence most often provides evidence for context and not positivist truth claims. Biblical scholars looking, for example, for a particular building where Paul might have slept or where the first Christ communities may have met will be disappointed by the archaeological evidence. Though this evidence is rich and diverse and specific, it does not tell us about the particular individuals biblical scholars so often seek. In other words, the questions biblical scholars ask of Greco-Roman archaeology are often unanswerable. A better use of Greco-Roman archaeology is to guide biblical scholars in asking better questions and learning about the social, economic, and material context from which texts and communities emerge.

General Overviews

Biblical scholars have a wide variety of overviews to choose from in the field of Greco-Roman archaeology. Some volumes are textbooks used in introductory courses within the discipline. Renfrew and Bahn 2019 offers an introduction to the entire field of archaeology, while Alcock and Osborne 2012 provides a standard introductory textbook specific to Greco-Roman archaeology. Other works are intended to introduce interdisciplinary audiences to the field. Laurence 2012 is aimed at historians, Gates 2011 offers an introduction to urbanization, and Lavan and Mulryan 2013 helps to tie Greco-Roman archaeology to late antique archaeology.

  • Alcock, Susan, and Robin Osborne, eds. Classical Archaeology. 2d ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

    An accessible but comprehensive introductory textbook appropriate for all levels of teaching.

  • Gates, Charles. Ancient Cities: The Archaeology of Urban Life in the Ancient Near East and Egypt, Greece, and Rome. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2011.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203830574

    A highly illustrated introduction to cities of the ancient Near East and Greco-Roman worlds focused on archaeology and architecture.

  • Laurence, Ray. Roman Archaeology for Historians. New York: Routledge, 2012.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203115480

    An interdisciplinary text to introduce students of Roman history to the discipline and methodology of Roman archaeology.

  • Lavan, Luke, and Michael Mulryan, eds. Field Methods and Post-excavation Techniques in Late Antique Archaeology. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013.

    Until recently, late antique strata were understudied in Greco-Roman archaeology. This edited volume collects case studies of the excavation and post-excavation study of late antique material with an eye toward a cohesive methodology.

  • Renfrew, Colin, and Paul Bahn. Archaeology: Theories, Methods, and Practice. 8th ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2019.

    A broad textbook introducing students to the history and methods of archaeology as a scholarly field inclusive of, but broader than, Greco-Roman archaeology.

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