Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2008
The appearance of Jewish art, architecture, and inscriptions increased enormously in the course of antiquity. Their use and variety were peripheral in Israelite-Jewish society of the first millennium bce and were restricted to a very small number of items and sites for much of the First and Second Temple periods. It was only in late antiquity that uniquely Jewish edifices, artifacts, symbols, and inscriptions multiplied geometrically in Jewish communities throughout the world. Was this because only then did Jews begin to develop artistic and architectural forms of their own? and if this was indeed the case, why did it not happen beforehand? Moreover, if, indeed, the widespread appearance of Jewish art and architecture was a development of the late Roman and Byzantine eras, what were the reasons for these changes in this particular historical context?
Our goal in this chapter is twofold. We shall first describe the most significant remains of Jewish art and architecture from late antiquity, and then present some of the major issues that have emerged in the wake of these discoveries, not the least of which will be an attempt to answer the questions raised above.