AIA Lecture: “From Aphlad to Zeus: The Archaeology of Diversity at Dura-Europos” (Jennifer Baird, Birbeck University of London)

Almost a century ago, the accidental discovery of paintings on the walls of a temple sparked more than a decade of excavations at the site we now know as Dura-Europos. Those paintings clung to the plaster of the first religious structure discovered at the site, the Temple of Bel, and in the years that followed excavations revealed many more: from that of Aphlad to that of Zeus Megistos, from a Jewish synagogue to a Christian building. The diversity of religious cults found at Dura-Europos was matched by that in languages, which ranged from Palmyrene Aramaic and Greek to Latin, from Syriac and Safaitic to Middle Persian. This talk will survey what we know of the ancient site of Dura-Europos and how we know it, and ask how we might understand the density of diversity at this ancient site perched on the edge of the Syrian steppe and overlooking Mesopotamia beyond.