Mike Aquilina

The Ancients Get Plastered

Tuesday October 07th 2008, 8:58 am

While I was in Washington last week, the archeologists were digging overtime.

Turkish Daily News says: “Church Discovered In Orhaneli One Of World’s Earliest.” (They mean “the first church constructed after the Roman Empire adopted Christianity,” so fourth century.)

The University of British Columbia tells of a site in Sicily that yielded “a tomb, skeletons and burial rites with both Christian and pagan elements.” Specifically:

A hole in the stone slab covering the tomb allowed visitors to pour libations for the dead.

“This shows that the long-established, originally pagan, rite of offering libations to the dead clearly continued into early Byzantine times,” observes Wilson.

Yet, the presence of a Christian cross on a lamp found in the room and on the underside of a grave slab suggests that the deceased were Christian. As well, the skeletons were wrapped in plaster, a practice believed to be Christian for preserving the body for resurrection.

“It is the first plaster burial recorded in Sicily, although the practice is known from Christian communities in North Africa,” says Wilson.