This article provides the first comprehensive synthesis of one of the least studied styles of column capitals—the Ionic order—in the countryside of the central Palestinian hill country in Late Antiquity. In this study a suggested typology and chronology of the documented finds of Ionic capitals—all are made of local limestone—is presented, while taking into account the geographical distribution of the capital types, and their archaeological/architectural and cultural contexts. Ionic capitals in late antique central Palestine were almost exclusively used in rural settlements of various forms, mostly villages (usually Christian but also Jewish and possibly Samaritan) and monasteries, and were virtually absent from the region's urban centers. While only one capital type represents the (quasi-)canonical or classical style of this order, the other five types clearly demonstrate provincial trends, especially an increasing heterogeneity in the development of the Ionic capital in the region, and the genuine contribution of rural artisans in this respect. The typological diversity and widespread distribution of Ionic-style capitals in the countryside of the late antique central Palestinian hill country is interpreted within local and pan-Levantine historical and socio-cultural contexts. This research inter alia suggests that the specific socio-political history of the central Palestinian hill country during the Early Roman period can partly explain the marked distinction between this area and the regions to its north regarding the evolution of the Ionic style in late antique times. By also using the code-switching model, this study further hypothesizes that the unique Ionic capitals used in the central Palestinian hill country contributed to the development of the cultural identity of the local rural population.

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