Manichaeans and Others in Fourth-Century Egypt: The Mechanisms of Religious Change in Late Antiquity
The recent excavations of the village of Kellis in Egypt have unearthed a large archive of Manichaean texts. These are not only the oldest datable Manichaean texts, but also the only ones to have been found in a controlled archaeological excavation. The story they tell has the potential to change the way we see the large-scale religious and social transformations of late antiquity. This project will study these documents as a collection in their double context: that of Egyptian Manichaeism on the one hand, and of a thriving village inhabited by Manichaeans, Christians and other Egyptians on the other. By focusing on the social and ritual structures underpinning this fast-growing world religion in its village context, and by developing a theoretical orientation that takes into account the fact that all religion is local religion, this project will make the connection between the ordinary lives and letters of a small religious community in the Egyptian desert and the pervasive societal and religious transformations of Late Antiquity.
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