Erin Darby is an Associate Professor in Religious Studies and Robert Darby is a lecturer in Art History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In addition to their other scholarly work, since 2009 they have co-directed the 'Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project (AGAP), excavating a Roman-Islamic period site in the Wadi Arabah of southern Jordan. The site's primary occupation is a Roman military outpost, consisting of a well-preserved fort and bathhouse. Over the course of seven seasons, AGAP has uncovered a monumental Latin foundation inscription identifying the site as ancient Arieldela, Greek inscriptions, pictorial and epigraphic grafiti, and, most recently, a fourth century church.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIV, October 16 – 17, 2021
En Ḥaẓeva (Tamar) at the Cross-Roads: Exploring the Edge of Empire
In this lecture, Robert and Erin Darby will take you on a tour through the Iron Age, Roman, and Byzantine forts at the site of ʽEn Ḥaẓeva in southern Israel. Despite having been excavated over many years, the site has yet to reach final publication, leaving much of the data inaccessible to either a scholarly or lay audience. Nevertheless, the site and an adjacent shrine have featured prominently in discussions of Judean and Edomite control of the Negev, Edomite religion, and ethnic and political identity. In the Roman period, Ḥaẓeva forms part of a chain of forts and bathhouses that dot the Wadi Aravah, controlling trade and troop movement in the region. The Darby’s will introduce you to the site and debates over its significance, while reviewing the current state of knowledge in the field.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXII, November 22 – 24, 2019
Baptizing Soldiers on the Roman Frontier: The Early Christian Church Complex at ‘Ayn Gharandal, Jordan
In this lecture, Erin and Robert Darby will introduce the audience to the newly-excavated potential baptistry of the fourth century church at ‘Ayn Gharandal (Arieldela), Jordan. Although scholars have discussed the Christianization of the Roman military, no other sites in the region have produced evidence for a purpose-built church in a Roman military base during the fourth century. Evidence for fourth century baptistries is likewise elusive. After describing the church complex, Erin and Robert will discuss several important implications, including the possible ritual uses of the rooms in the church complex, potential sources for ritual officiants, and what the process of baptism at the site may have entailed.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXI, November 16 – 18, 2018
Excavating the Gharandal Church: Soldiers, Pagans, and Christians in Arabia-Palaestina
In this lecture, Erin and Robert Darby will introduce the audience to the newly-excavated fourth century church at the Roman military site of ‘Ayn Gharandal (Arieldela), Jordan. Although scholars have discussed the Christianization of the Roman military, no other sites in the region have produced evidence for a purpose-built church in a Roman military base during the fourth century. In fact, the Gharandal Church is one of the few fourth century church buildings still standing in the Levant. After describing the church complex, Erin and Robert will discuss several important implications, including when in the fourth century the church may have been constructed, who commissioned the building, the extent of conversion to Christianity at the site, and the nature of Christian practice in this distant province of the Empire.