Letter from the ICS Executive Board on Society Events and Programs in 2020

Boston, August 25, 2020

Dear friends and colleagues of the ICS:

We hope that you are keeping safe and well during these difficult times. The corona virus has upended our lives in ways that we could not have imagined six months ago. Just as pandemic dislocations have required us individually to adapt to a new reality, the International Catacomb Society, too, has had to make some adjustments.

À propos, two highly anticipated events supposed to have taken place this year will have to be rescheduled:

The meeting scheduled for May in New York, featuring a lecture by Professor Steven Fine, was a casualty of the lock-down.

The upcoming 40th ICS anniversary celebration, originally scheduled for October at the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East (HMANE), will be postponed.

Both these events will take place at a time when it will be safe to meet.

In a happier development, not even a plague of biblical proportions could deter the Shohet Scholar committee from its appointed task. The committee completed its annual mission by awarding grants to two important archeological projects. It should be noted, however, that these awards will be distributed to cover a period of two years instead of the customary one year: http://www.catacombsociety.org/news-and-events/

Finally, board members will be relieved to know, even in this topsy-turvy world, that the new normal of meetings on Zoom will allow the annual ICS board meeting to take place in September. Please mark your calendars for the 26th proximo.

Details regarding all of the above will be available on our website: http://www.catacombsociety.org/

Until we meet again, please keep safe and well.

With our very best wishes on behalf of the ICS Executive Board,

Annewies van den Hoek, president
Philip Olander, secretary

Inquiries to: info@catacombsociety.org

Introducing the Shohet Scholars for 2020-2021

May 8, 2020

The Officers and Directors of the International Catacomb Society are pleased to announce the Shohet Scholars for 2020-2021:

Davide Tanasi (Associate Professor, University of South Florida, Department of History)
Title: The Digital afterlife of the Catacombs of Abbatija tad-Dejr at Rabat (Malta)
Abstract: The research aims at the reappraisal through the application of 3-D Scanning, Remote Sensing and 3-D Visualization of the multifaceted Maltese catacomb complex of Abbatija tad-Dejr, whose occupation phases range from Late Roman to Late Medieval period. The site is currently inaccessible and in derelict state and has not been subject to any excavation or new interpretative study since the 1930s. The production of a 3D model combined with a spatial analysis will produce an updated technical documentation necessary to characterize it. An interactive virtual replica of the complex and all it iconographic features will be made accessible on a web platform for public enjoyment.

Joan Connelly (Professor, Classics, New York University) and Monika Więch (Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures, Polish Academy of Sciences, Department of Classical Mediterranean Cultures)
Title: Yeronisos–Meletis Necropolis Project, Peyia, Paphos District, Cyprus
Abstract: The dozen spectacular rock-cut chamber tombs of the small cemetery of Meletis at Agios Georgios tis Pegeias near Paphos in Cyprus had been thought to be fully looted long ago. But the discovery in 2018 of a thirteenth tomb will forever change our understanding of burial practices within a wealthy sector of the local community during late Hellenistic through Roman times. This project calls for excavation, documentation, preservation, and publication of a family tomb established in the 1st century B.C.E. under Ptolemaic Egyptian influence and continuing in use until the 5–6th century C.E. Investigation of this unique sepulcher provides a rare opportunity for us to understand better the social and cultural history of rock-cut tombs in Cyprus and across the Mediterranean world.

We congratulate these scholars on the impact and quality of their work.

Sincerely, Prof. Annewies van den Hoek on behalf of the Shohet Scholars Program Committee

Call for Applicants to the 2020-2021 Shohet Scholars Grant Program for Research on the Ancient Mediterranean

The Shohet Scholars Grant Program of the International Catacomb Society is now accepting applications to the Shohet Scholars cohort of 2020-2021. Submission deadline is January 15, 2020.

This annual grant program funds research on the Ancient Mediterranean from the Hellenistic Era to the Early Middle Ages. Shohet Scholars may do their research in the fields of archaeology, art history, classical studies, history, comparative religions, or related subjects. Of special interest are interdisciplinary projects that approach traditional topics from new perspectives.

One or more Shohet Scholars will be selected each year. The primary intent of the grant is to support significant, innovative research that can be completed and reported upon within and shortly after the award period. Grants may be made to seed innovative approaches and new ideas or to cover specific expenses or phases of a larger project under the direction of the applicant. At this time, awards in the range of $2,000 to $30,000 will be made. The Shohet Scholars Program reserves the right not to make a grant in a year in which there are no applications meeting the requirements of the program. A complete history of past and present Shohet Scholars awards is available on the ICS webpage, www.catacombsociety.org

Eligibility
Scholars of all institutional affiliations and independent scholars may apply for Shohet Scholar funding if they are individual or institutional members of the ICS at the time of the application submission deadline of January 15, 2020 and in possession of a doctoral degree or the equivalent. Preference will be given to applicants in the early postdoctoral or launching stage of their careers (i.e., persons awarded the doctorate within six years prior to the application deadline).

Non-U.S. citizens may apply if a co-applicant is a legal permanent resident (i.e. already in possession of "green card" or Form I-551) or native or naturalized citizen of the U.S.A. and Canada, meets all eligibility requirements, and has a genuinely collaborative and credited leadership role in the proposal. Co-applicants must submit as individuals all the necessary forms except for the research proposal, list of permissions, and budget proposal, which may be filed jointly.

Employees, contractors, and members of the Board of Directors or Advisory Board of the ICS and their families are ineligible. No applicant will be denied consideration or selection because of race, religion, or ethnic origin. Any fraudulent misrepresentation of self and information about a proposal will result in a disqualification.

Reporting Requirements
Shohet Scholar grant recipients are expected to: 1. acknowledge the Shohet Scholars Program of the International Catacomb Society in all publications and activities that are funded in part or in whole with the award with direct notification to the Society when these events occur and 2. provide the Shohet Scholarship Committee no later than three months after the end of the fellowship year with a brief, illustrated report of the work carried out or in course, suitable for publication on the ICS website.

Deadlines and Decisions
The application deadline for the 2020-2021 academic year is January 15, 2020. The award announcement for the 2020-2021 academic year will be made by May 1, 2020, for funding to be disbursed on 15 July 2020. Please note: starting in 2018, all funding is awarded directly to the USA-based awardee, for distribution among project co-applicants and collaborators. The ICS will no longer wire or transfer money to bank accounts outside of the USA.

Click here for application forms and here instructions and for assistance.

Questions ?
If you have any questions about the suitability of proposed projects, application procedures, or any other matters related to the Shohet Scholars Program, please consult our FAQ page or contact us at shohetscholars (at) catacombsociety.org.

Introducing the Shohet Scholars for 2019-2020

The officers and directors of the International Catacomb Society are pleased to announce the Shohet Scholars of 2019-2020:

Lily Vuong, Central Washington University: “The Apocryphal Mary in Text, Pictorial Art, and Iconography"

This project examines the ways in which Marian Apocryphal material culture (mosaics, sculptures, ivory carvings, book covers, illuminated manuscripts, physical space of churches, etc.) were used to reinforce early Christian devotion, faith, and piety. At the same time, it also aims to explore the reciprocal relationship between text and art, and how early Christian identities shaped by Marian apocryphal literature intersected with the identities of those who valued Marian material culture as a necessary component to their religious lives.

Kevin McGinnis, Stonehill College: “Does a Priestly People Have Priests?
Early Christian Leadership in its Polytheistic Context"

The research funded by this grant will contribute greatly to an analysis of how Christians came to represent their ecclesiastical leaders as priests from the third to sixth centuries C.E. The standard narrative of how the priesthood developed starts with the period of the Jesus movement and proceeds rather uncritically from there. This narrative has largely determined how early Christian art has been interpreted. This project will counter that narrative, in part through a comparison of Christian and Roman depictions of religious leaders. The ultimate goal is to show how, when, and why Christians appropriated the title ‘priest’.

Joan Breton Connolly, New York University“: Yeronisos – Meletis Necropolis Project, Peyia-Paphos District, Cyprus

This project calls for systematic excavation, documentation, preservation, and publication of a newly discovered rock-cut tomb at the Meletis Necropolis, southwestern Cyprus. Preliminary investigation suggests a family tomb established in the second century BCE under Ptolemaic Egyptian influence, continuing in use through Late Roman times. The tomb preserves a prime example of monumental funerary culture in Hellenistic Cyprus, Ptolemaic influence in the Paphian countryside, and the evolution of Alexandrian funerary display strategies into Roman times. Investigation of this unique sepulcher provides a vital first step in writing a comprehensive social and cultural history of Hellenistic/Roman rock-cut tombs in Cyprus and across the Mediterranean.

More Than Just Mosaics: ICS NYC Lecture on Latest Finds from the Huqoq Excavations in Israel, 13 April 2019 at 4:30 p.m.

More than Just Mosaics: The Ancient Synagogue at Huqoq in Israel's Galilee

Saturday, 13 April 2019, 4:30 p.m. (reception to follow)

Fordham University - Lincoln Center Campus
School of Law Building
Room 7-119 (Hill Conference Room)
150 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023 (map)

Since 2011, Professor Jodi Magness has been directing excavations in the ancient village of Huqoq in Israel's Galilee. The excavations have brought to light the remains of a monumental Late Roman (fifth century) synagogue building paved with stunning and unique mosaics, including biblical scenes and the first non-biblical story ever discovered decorating an ancient synagogue. In this slide-illustrated lecture, Professor Magness describes these exciting finds, including the discoveries made in last summer's season.

The Huqoq Project was awarded a Shohet Scholars grant from the International Catacomb Society in 2016, and Prof. Magness now serves on the Society's advisory board. For more information about Prof. Magness' work in progress at Huqoq, please visit:

http://jodimagness.org/cv.php

The ICS NYC Lecture is co-sponsored by the Department of Theology and the Program in Jewish Studies at Fordham University.

ICS a Fabulous Forty in 2019!

The International Catacomb Society strives to increase knowledge about the interconnections between Judaism, Christianity, and the surrounding ancient world by issuing grants, sponsoring lectures, and disseminating information and publications.

The attached brochure (in pdf) gives the essential information (a bird’s-eye view) of the work that the society does and the goals we would like to set for the future. We have a stellar team of professional board members and advisory board members that is truly international with colleagues from the US, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK: http://www.catacombsociety.org/who-we-are/.

We are looking for additional resources to grow our program of annual research grants for scholars. The last 18 years of research projects are listed in the brochure and on our website. A gift in any amount will help with the worthy projects that we are sure to receive in 2019. Should you wish to fund one or more of these projects, the ICS is happy to arrange for one of the grants to be entitled in your name or in honor of another individual.

With many thanks and all best wishes for 2019.

International Catacomb Society Directors (2019)

John Ambrose, SkillSoft, Nashua, NH
Max Bernheimer, Christie’s, New York, NY
Jennifer Berry, Boston Public Schools, Boston, MA
Matthew Berry, MD, Los Angeles, CA
John Bodel, Brown University, Providence, RI
Joan Branham, Providence College, Providence, RI
Jessica Dello Russo, International Catacomb Society, Boston, MA
Nicola Denzy Lewis, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA
Annewies van den Hoek , Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Robin M. Jensen, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
Philip Olander, Medford, MA
Arthur Urbano, Providence College, Providence, RI
Alfred Wolsky, Esq., Arlington, MA
Pamela Worstell, Esq., Wayland, MA

Aphrodisias: A Greek City in Roman Asia – Estelle Shohet Brettman Memorial Lecture on 2 December 2018

The next Estelle Shohet Brettman Memorial Lecture will be held on Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 in the Remis Auditorium in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This year's lecturer will be Bert Smith, Lincoln Professor of Classical Archaeology and Art at Oxford University.

Aphrodisias is one of the best-preserved Greek-Roman sites in modern Turkey. The city was famous for its cult of Aphrodite and its marble sculptors. Recent work has uncovered an urban park with a 170-meter-long pool at its center. Its excavation has revealed the pool’s long life, from the 1st to the 6th century AD, as well as astonishing remains of high-quality statue monuments. Dr. Smith has directed the excavation and research of the site since 1991.

Date: Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 from Time: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Location: Harry and Mildred Remis Auditorium (Auditorium 161), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

This is a free lecture but tickets are limited. ICS members are requested to please RSVP directly to Stacey Leonard by Friday, November 30th via email sleonard@mfa.org or phone 617-369-3259.  The general public may reserve online at: https://www.mfa.org/programs/lectures-and-courses/aphrodisias-a-greek-city-in-roman-asia

https://www.mfa.org/programs/lectures-and-courses/aphrodisias-a-greek-city-in-roman-asia

2018 Annual Meeting Update: ICS Directors Elect New President and Board for 2018-2021

The Annual Directors' Meeting of the International Catacomb Society was held on Saturday, 15 September 2018, in a meeting hall generously provided by colleagues at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, MA. 

In addition to strategic planning for 2019 and various committee reports (scholarships, finance, website, and archives), elections were held for the society's executive officers and directors for 2018-2021. As a result, the current list of ICS directors reveals two major changes: a new president of ICS, Prof. Annewies van den Hoek, and new director, Jessica Dello Russo, who fills the vacancy left by ICS founding director Florence Z. Wolsky (1923-2018).

Annewies van den Hoek (President) taught Greek and Latin literature at Harvard Divinity School from 1989 until her retirement in 2016 and is now a Research Associate at the Harvard Semitic Museum. She is the author of several monographs, including Clement of Alexandria and Philo (1988), and a critical edition of Clement's Stromateis IV (2001), with another textual commentary in progress on Philo's De Cherubim. In addition to her textual studies, she researches and publishes extensively on ancient art and archaeology. With her husband John Herrmann she organized an exhibition of African Red slip pottery that was shown at Harvard Divinity School and traveled to Austin and New Haven with a catalog entitled: Light From the Age of Augustine. Late Antique Ceramics From North Africa, 2nd edition, University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University, 2003. She co-authored with John Herrmann a book entitled: Pottery, Pavements, and Paradise (2013). Dr. van den Hoek also cooperates in research projects on ancient marbles from North Africa and other areas of the Mediterranean, with grants from the Kress Foundation and American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS). A close colleague of ICS founding director and chairman, Cornelius C. Vermeule, Dr. van den Hoek became involved in the ICS in the 1990's, and has long been one of the most active and influential members of its board.

Jessica Dello Russo (Director) first heard about ICS as a Harvard undergraduate and, not long after college graduation, rang the doorbell of its Beacon Street headquarters to see what was inside. Welcomed by then-society director Amy K. Hirschfeld and archivist Victoria Crammer, she offered on the spot to check up on the Jewish catacomb situation, as she was about to return to Rome, where she had been interning for the Associated Press. Her inquiries sparked a curiosity to learn more about Rome's ancient Jewish sites, and thanks to partial funding from ICS for tuition and travel, Dello Russo completed doctoral work at the Vatican's Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology with research on tomb typologies employed by Jews in Ancient Rome, the preliminary results of which she reported to ICS in the series "Roma Subterranea Judaica". She has been Executive Director of ICS since 2015, and continues to study and publish on the tombs of Jews and others in Italy during Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. She says, "It is a tremendous honor to take Florence's place on the ICS board - I confess that, as a child, I was rather afraid of her - especially when she thought my grubby little hands were closing in on some priceless MFA antique - to someone very young, she could seem most severe, but, later, getting to know her better at the ICS, and working to prepare in its final form the book she helped to write on the catacombs of Rome, it was impossible not to admire Florence's vocation to Classical scholarship and deep loyalty to the society she helped found."

The ICS will not remain Wolsky-less: Florence's son, and ICS president emeritus, Alfred Wolsky, will remain on the board. Collectively, mother and son have given over half a century of dedicated service to ICS.

The International Catacomb Society is a registered 501(c)(3) corporation, founded in 1980 with a registered office in Boston, Massachusetts. The Board of Directors manages the properties and affairs of this non-profit corporation, as stated in the ICS By-Laws (link).

Photo: President of the ICS, Dr. Annewies van den Hoek, and President Emeritus, Alfred Wolsky, Esq.

שנה טובה ומתוקה! Shanà Tovà u’Metuka 5779! Annual ICS Jewish New Year’s Reflection

For what has become an annual ICS tradition to mark the Jewish New Year and High Holiday season, and in preparation for a big meeting of its board this coming week, the society reflects upon not only the past year of activity, but also a more remote period of its history, going back forty years to the time of its foundation. To understand the big question at the time it was first raised: Why an International Catacomb Society?, click here (link)

This is also a good time to reach out to ICS members to ask how they themselves would answer that question. What led you to join the ICS, and what have you found useful or not about the services it has been able to provide? What do you think should be improved, included, and introduced to allow the ICS to live more fully its founding mission? What would you do if you could, really, with the resources at ICS's disposal? Good responses (like, within the realm of possibility, not wacky or offensive) will be treated with confidentiality and communicated (anonymously, if so desired) to the powers-that-be, the ICS directors, at the annual board meeting this coming week, so get in touch (at info(at)catacombsociety.org) by next Friday, September 14, 2018. 

Let's make this new in the New Year! A good, sweet year to all!

Interview with Estelle Shohet Brettman on “Judaism and Christianity in the Catacombs of Rome”

On 13 January 1980, right at the time the International Catacomb Society was being formed "to raise funds to preserve the Jewish catacombs of Italy", society co-founder Estelle Shohet Brettman discussed her new exhibition on funerary art in the catacombs, "Judaism and Christianity in the Catacombs of Rome", with journalists Sonya Hamlin and Frank Avruch of the Sunday Open House television program. This was one of three televised appearances by Brettman in 1979-1980 "because of interest generated by the exhibit" (she also was interviewed by Carol Yelverton for a Channel 68 cultural segment on 26 December 1979 and by Carol Collins for the TV series "Show of Faith" on 8 February 1980). The International Catacomb Society has digitized the Sunday Open House segment, which can be viewed at this link, along with footage for the "Show of Faith" program that records the original installation of Brettman's catacombs exhibit at the Boston Public Library between December 1979 and February 1980 (link)

Brettman's exhibit, renamed "Vaults of Memory: Jewish and Christian Imagery in the Catacombs of Rome," would travel to many different venues in the USA and abroad though the late-1990's (link). In 2003, the show was digitized as a virtual exhibit, complete with a catalogue in pdf originally published by Brettman in 1985 (these images, and thousands of others from Brettman's slide library, also can be viewed in DAPICS). Nearly twenty years after its launch, "Vaults" continued to draw crowds and educate an English-speaking public about the cemeteries used by Jews, Christians, and polytheists in late antique Rome and other parts of the Mediterranean. The main thrust of Brettman's research was, as she put it, on "how symbolism used over 3000 years ago was tied in with that used in Christian, Greco-Roman, and Jewish burials in the Roman empire". Her outlook was ecumenical and dedicated to raising public awareness about the underground burial sites so that there would be better efforts to study and preserve them as "important links" to different societies' shared concerns and beliefs. As a longtime museum educator, Brettman also lectured extensively about ancient art, and at the time of her death in 1991 was completing a monograph on the catacombs, now edited and published in part in open source format on the ICS website (link).

Thanks to this extraordinary legacy, the International Catacomb Society remains on the forefront in developing learning resources and education networks for making ancient cultures more accessible and relevant to our own lives. To expand upon this mission and increase funding for its public programming and scholarships, the society depends on the vital support of individuals like Estelle Brettman, who became a true "star", not only in name ("Estelle"), as a shining example of generosity so many years after her death. 

As the society has honored and perpetuated Estelle's memory since 1991, it welcomes the involvement of others who desire to establish and endow a legacy project or projects in keeping with its focus on public scholarship. Through the Society's Patrons and Partners program, eligible ICS sponsors can obtain naming rights to a scholarship, lecture series, or other project, including but not limited to those ICS currently supports. ICS offers a specialized network of professionals and students on five continents, powerful outreach, and expert staff in program development. Please do not hesitate to reach out to ICS at info@catacombsociety.org to discuss your ideas about future collaboration, and new ways to look at the old, as Brettman did in a wonderfully creative and independent way that started as a search for answers, led to her life's work, and, ultimately, gave birth to a legacy. This is the ICS.

(Image: Estelle Shohet Bretmann meeting with close friend, Cardinal Giuseppe Caprio, to discuss Vatican logistical support for showing of "Vaults of Memory" in Rome)