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Dissertation Defense: Matthew Winter


May 12 2020 - 9:00am

May 12, 2020
9:00 AM


Title: Navigating the Built Environment: Architecture and Social Connectedness in the Southern Levant, 330 BCE – 250 CE

Abstract: During the Hellenistic and Roman periods three major subregions in the southern Levant emerge: Idumaea, Judaea, and Samaria. Each region was occupied by a different, ostensibly Jewish, ethnic group, each of which were negotiating their identities in an increasingly cosmopolitan and imperial world. Consequently, questions of degrees of Hellenization and Romanization are deeply important in historical and archaeological studies. This study examines how sites within these three subregions were connected to one another in the Hellenistic and Roman periods using vernacular and monumental architecture as the archaeological objects of analysis. This dissertation uses two primary methodological approaches. First, intragroup relations are examined through the application of formal concept analysis. Second, social network analysis is utilized to examine wider macroregional and intergroup connectivity. This is the first application of social network analysis to architectural material from the Greco-Roman Levant and demonstrates the utility of integrating both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The social networks reveal relatively pan-regional conservatism in architectural techniques resulting in high degrees of connection between the three regions in terms of vernacular architecture. When considering building forms and architectural décor, however, the networks decompose into several smaller cliques predicated on different forms of identity. When the social network data are put into dialogue with the semiotics of architecture, this study demonstrates that while there was a regional architectural language, different Jewish communities were “speaking” different architectural dialects, which are proxies for identity. The results from this study demonstrate that although all three regions were occupied by Jewish populations, those that lived in Samaria and Idumaea engaged with Greco-Roman architectural traditions in different ways contra to traditional Judaean proclivities against foreign influences. Furthermore, traditional architectural markers of “Jewishness” in the forms of ritual bathing facilities and synagogues are not as widely distributed across Jewish communities, pointing to internal contestations of what was considered “proper” Jewish practices. These results alter standard interpretations by demonstrating that Jewish communities in the southern Levant in the Hellenistic and Roman periods were not monolithic in how they (re)defined their identities, which were deeply influenced by regional, sociocultural, and ethnic affiliations.

Committee: Dr. Emma Blake (co-chair); Dr. David Soren (co-chair); Dr. Lars Fogelin

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