Christian monasticism on the eve of Islam: Kilwa (Saudi Arabia) — new evidence




Little knowledge and understanding of Kilwa has been acquired since its discovery in the 1930s. Headed by Saba Farès, research began in 2008 which would provide more thorough documentation of the site through an architectural study of the buildings and excavations and by examining the archaeology and epigraphy of the region. A re-examination of Arabic inscriptions engraved on the lintel of a cell has enabled us to decipher a text containing the name of the community that originally lived in Kilwa, providing us with details of their origins. The text in question enables us to understand the architectural similarity between the Kilwa buildings and those in southern Syria and northern Jordan. After two seasons of excavation, it is now certain that the Kilwa site was a monastery. The presence of a large number of crosses on the lintels of the cells confirms the Christian faith of the inhabitants.