Archaeology, Ritual, Religion

Archaeology, Ritual, Religion

Archaeology, Ritual, Religion

Archaeology, Ritual, Religion

Synopsis

The archaeology of religion is a much neglected area, yet religious sites and artefacts constitute a major area of archaeological evidence. Timothy Insoll presents an introductory statement on the archaeology of religion, examining what archaeology can tell us about religion, the problems of defining and theorizing religion in archaeology, and the methodology, or how to 'do', the archaeology of religion.This volume assesses religion and ritual through a range of examples from around the world and across time, including prehistoric religions, shamanism, African religions, death, landscape and even food. Insoll also discusses the history of research and varying theories in this field before looking to future research directions. This book will be a valuable guide for students and archaeologists, and initiate a major area of debate.

Excerpt

Our Malian assistant, Modibo, was told to remove his red shirt, this being a forbidden colour in the shrine, he did this and placed it on a specific rock indicated by the priest. the priest knocked three times on trees, twice to introduce us to the shrine as we descended into the gorge in which it is located. Clogged with tall trees interlaced with creepers, this gorge formed an anomalous feature in the otherwise arid landscape, a sense of difference reinforced by the striking contrast in light from the glare encountered in the plain above to that of the dappled shade of the sacred forest.

On entering the forest our attention was immediately drawn to a large hearth indicated by three blackened stones and a circle of ash surrounded for several metres by a mass of feathers (Figure 1). Here the priest halted and checked that everything required for the ritual was present-chickens, and a handful of ash. He and everyone else took off their shoes, and the party proceeded a further 60 metres to the shrine which itself does not become visible until about 10 metres distant. Then hidden under a mass of creepers and hanging vegetation the 'holy of holies' is seen: a large free-standing boulder, 2 metres in height and about a metre in width, smeared with blood and shea butter and close to, but not touching, one of the walls of the gorge. Some 5 metres from the shrine is a large pool fed by a stream entering the gorge and in turn feeding a further smaller pool downstream.

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