Photo: Abila Project Glossary

Abila Project Glossary

Abacus
The square slab at the top of a capital.

Acropolis
The "high place" in a Greek city.  Often the setting for the city's most prominent buildings, temples and other public structures.

Agora
This was the Greek word for "marketplace," known by the Romans as the forum.

Apse
A semicircular section projecting from the side or front of a basilica or monumental building, often vaulted.

Apsidal
Pertaining to an apse (semicircular in shape).

Architrave
The horizontal beam which rests on columns or piers and which spans the space between them. It is the lowest foundation level for the entablature and often decorated with sculpture.

Arcosolium
A Hellenistic-to-Byzantine era burial niche, designed to hold a sarcophagus. It was cut into the stone wall of a cave, with the ledge below and an arch above.

Ashlar
Square or rectangular cut stones, uniform in size and shape and laid horizontally.

Atrium
The traditional central open area to a typical Roman private house. It was usually entered through a vestebulum (vestibule).

Caldarium
The hot room(s) of a Roman bathhouse.

Capital
The uppermost section or member of a classical column or pilaster.

Cavea
The auditorium of a theater, or the seating area of an amphitheater.

Clerestory
A row of skylight windows which provided light for the nave of the basilica.

Columbarium
A sepulchral chamber with rows of small recesses to hold ash urns.

Column Drum
One of the cylindrical sections of a column shaft.

Cardo Maximus
The central and most important street in a typical Greco-Roman city, running north to south. This street was connected to the very heart of the city--the agora or marketplace.

Cruciform
Cross-shaped. A building designed in the shape of a cross.

Cryptoporticus
An underground vaulted corridor.

Decumanus
This was a secondary street(s), which ran east to west, perpendicularly to the primary cardo.

Domus
House. Dwelling of a well-to-do family as distinct from the taberna of the artisan and tradesman, as well as the apartment houses (insulae) of the middle-class and poor.

Ecclesia
The Latin form of the Greek word "ekklesia," which meant "assembly. It was later translated to refer specifically to the gathering of Christians.

Flagstone
Flat, evenly shaped paving stone.

Flutes
The vertical grooves cut into the shaft of a column.

Fresco
The art/procedure of painting on plaster while it is still wet.

Frigidarium
The cold room of a Roman bathhouse.

Hypocaust
A central heating system characterized by an airspace beneath the floor for circulation of hot air.

Iconostasis Screen
The screen that seperated the bema or altar area from the nave. This screen (chancel) was decorated with religious icons and symbols, often relating to the Bible (cross, fish).

In Situ
This is an archaeological term, which means literally "at the site." It is used to designate the precise position of an artifact as it was first discovered by the archaeologist.

Laconicum
The dry hot-air room of a Roman bath complex.

Levant
The Levant (Latin="easterners") is a term designated for the entire Syro-Palestinian coastline, including modern day Israel, Lebanon, and the western coast of Syria.

Loculus
A rectangular burial niche or recess (sometimes 6 ft. deep), carved into the walls of a tomb chamber for individual corpses, sometimes several. The plural form is pronounced "loculi" (in Hebrew="kochim").

Locus
Any three-dimensional feature in a square, such as a layer of earth, as wall, pit, bin, and the like.

Martyrium
The grave of a martyr or saint, who died for their faith. It was not uncommon for early Christians to construct their ecclesiastical edifices over top of such a burial. This was especially prominant for the location of the apse.

Mosaic
A picture of description made by piecing small cut stones (tessarae) of different shapes and colors.

Narthex
A vestibule leading to the nave of the church. The portico of an ancient church building.

Necropolis
The cemetery.  From the Greek word "nekros," which referred to a dead body.

Nomen Sacrum
A sacred name; specifically, an abbreviation for a sacred name found in ancient manuscripts.

Nympheum
A monumental public fountain, usually containing flowers and plants.

Odeum (Gk. odeion)
Small roofed theater, for concerts and lectures.

Oikos
A Greek house or dwelling.

Opus Sectile
Paving or wall decoration made of shaped tiles of colored stone of marble.

Orchestra
Originally the circular dancing floor of a Greek theater, later becoming a semicircular area in front of the stage in a Roman theater.

Orthostate
An upright slab of stone; particularly those used in Greek construction to form the lower part of a wall.

Palestra
Porticoed enclosure for sport and exercise; the exercise yard of a Roman bathhouse.

Piazza
An open square.

Pilaster
Vertical pier or support beam, usually rectangular in shape, which protrudes from a wall. Architecturally it is treated as a column.

Platea
Wide street or avenue.

Portico (Stoa)
Colonnaded porch, particularly one at the front entrance to a building.

Rosette
An ornament resembling a rose.

Sarcophagus
A stone coffin.

Shaft Tombs
A round shaft usually three feet in diameter, cut vertically to a depth of about seven feet from the surface. The lower part of the shaft contained a series of small, underground chambers that were carved back into the rock. Burials sometimes consisted of two to eight people.

Tell
The Arabic term for artificial earthen mound; a characteristic attributed to ancient cities in the Middle East, due to centuries of building and rebuilding on previous ruins.

Tepidarium
The warm room of a Roman bathhouse.

Thermae
Large public bathing facility.

Vestibulum
Vestibule, especially at the street entrance to a private house.

Villa
A country house or estate, usually the home of a wealthy citizen.

Vomitorium
Entrance (or Exit) of a Roman theater or amphitheater.

Wadi
The Arabic term for a watercourse, which carries water only during the rainy season.

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