Defining the Sacred: Approaches to the Archaeology of Religion in the Near East [Paperback]

Nicola Laneri(Editor)

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ISBN: 9781782976790 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2015 | Language: English 200p, H11 x W8.5, b/w illustrations
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Defining the Sacred


Religion is a phenomenon that is inseparable from human society. It brings about a set of emotional, ideological and practical elements that are pervasive in the social fabric of any society and can be characterized by a number of features. These include the establishment of intermediaries in the relationship between humans and the divine; the construction of ceremonial places for worshipping the gods and practicing ritual performances; and the creation ritual paraphernalia. Investigating the religious dimensions of ancient societies encounters problems in defining such elements, especially with regard to societies that lack textual evidences and has tended to lead towards the identification of differentiation between the mental dimension, related to religious beliefs, and the material one associated with religious practices, resulting in a separation between scholars able to investigate, and possibly reconstruct, ritual practices (i.e., archaeologists), and those interested in defining the realm of ancient beliefs (i.e., philologists and religious historians).
The aim of this collection of papers is to attempt to bridge these two dimensions by breaking down existing boundaries in order to form a more comprehensive vision of religion among ancient Near Eastern societies. This approach requires that a higher consideration be given to those elements (either artificial -- buildings, objects, texts, etc. -- or natural -- landscapes, animals, trees, etc.) that are created through a materialization of religious beliefs and practices enacted by members of communities. These issues are addressed in a series of specific case-studies covering a broad chronological framework that from the Pre-pottery Neolithic to the Iron Age. (Cover illustration © German Archaeological Institute, photo N. Becker)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Investigating archaeological approaches to the study of religious practices and beliefs
Nicola Laneri

I. Sacred Nature

Animal Burials and Cult of them in Margiana
Nadezah Dubova

Identifying sacrifice in Bronze Age Near Eastern iconography
Laerke Recht

Cult and the Rise of Desert Pastoralism
Steve Rosen

Standing Stone Monuments of Early Bronze Age Jordan
Ann Andersson

Late Chalcolithic Mesopotamia: towards a definition of sacred space and its evolution.
Pascal Butterlin

II. Housing the God

A sanctuary, or so fair a house? In defense of an archaeology of cult at Pre-Pottery Neolithic Göbekli Tepe
Oliver Dietrich and Jens Notroff

Where to Worship? Religion in Iron II Israel and Judah
Beth Albert Akhai

The Jezirah communal places of worship. Ritual activities and social memory during the Early Bronze Age
Stefano Valentini

Open spaces around the temples and their ritual use: archaeological evidence from the Bronze and Iron Age Levant
Stefania Mazzoni

Ritual Circumambulations in the Cuneiform Texts. An Overview
Amalia Catagnoti

A Temple Lifecycle: Rituals of Construction, Restoration, and Destruction of Some ED Mesopotamian and Syrian Sacred Buildings
Licia Romano

III. The Materialization of Religious Beliefs and Practices

Religion as practice in Neolithic societies
Trevor Watkins

Casting the sacred: Chalcolithic metallurgy in the southern Levant
Isaac Gilead & Milena Gosic

How better understanding of ritual practices can help the comprehension of religious feelings ?
Laura Battini

Archaeological Correlates of Pious Societies
Daniel Snell

Reviews & Quotes

"All told, this is a very useful and interesting volume, which collects a diverse group of studies on various cultures, periods and issues, and from, at times, very different perspectives, on the archaeology of religion in the ancient Near East. The editor and the contributors are to be thanked for this important collection. "
Aren M. Maeir, Bar-Ilan University

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