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By Karen B. Stern

Reliance on crucial record or syncretistic types of cultural dynamics has restricted previous reviews of old Jewish populations. This re-evaluation of proof for Jews of North Africa bargains another method.

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Additional resources for Inscribing Devotion and Death: Archaeological Evidence for Jewish Populations of North Africa

Sample text

It remains difÀcult to discern from the placement of the epitaph the exact nature of Annianos’s beliefs, or the Christology, or lack thereof, he may have sustained. A term like “Jewish Christian” appears to be categorically inappropriate, then, in a second way. Literary terms, which describe belief, appear to be ill-suited to organize and explain archaeological materials—beliefs are quite difÀcult (if not impossible) to discern from the archaeological record. Even when scholars redeÀne and “neutralize” Christian literary taxonomies, these categories ultimately remain unhelpful for the interpretation of Jews’ beliefs, behaviors, and artifacts.

C. Taxonomy as Tautology The method chosen to organize archaeological materials also impacts the interpretation of the available data. , b. Ketubot 27b; b. Baba Qamma 114b). Such stories, however, furnish little information about Africa itself and align more closely with stylized genres of rabbinic literature and Hellenistic literary travel genres. As Rives comments with respect to the interpretation of rabbinic sources on African Jewish populations, “the difÀculties for a historian [with respect to rabbinical sources] are obvious (1995, 219, n.

To this point, it has appeared that any attempts to analyze evidence for these populations are futile, because the archaeological record is messy and unruly. Possible means to reevaluate it appear few, as no Jewish texts can explain it and the organization of the evidence yields little improved interpretation of it. In the absence of additional discoveries, scholarship of this group has reached a dead end. 48 The continued acceptability of such approaches reÁects the degree to which ancient Christian literature continues to shape approaches to ancient Mediterranean religion itself.

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