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While Maya public rituals are often assumed to have developed from domestic practices, caches at Ceibal in Guatemala demonstrate the concurrent emergence of distinct domestic and public rituals. During the Middle Preclassic period (c. 1000–350 BC), caches in domestic areas were associated with construction phases—deposited on floors or within construction fills. In the public plaza, however, caches were deposited in intrusive pits. Later, domestic and public ritual practices became more similar. By focusing on deposition processes and deposit context, rather than content, it is possible to recognise distinct ritualised activities that are sometimes obscured by predefined categories such as ‘cache’.
The conclusion summarises the findings of this volume regarding the influence of classical ideas on the writing and performance of gift giving in the central Middle Ages. Based on this, it argues that research into medieval gift giving needs to take account of the influence classical models exercised on medieval conceptions of generosity.
This chapter investigates the way in which classical ideas about generosity influenced the actual performance of ritual. It focuses on a register surviving from the court of Henry III of England (r. 1216-72) detailing the gifts received and given away by the king. In order to expound the meanings contemporaries may have attributed to the king’s treatment of gifts, the chapter explores ideas about gifts, authority and kingship in classical and medieval writings.
The Introduction discusses the place of gift giving in the historiography of medieval Europe. It explores how gift giving has been studied by social anthropologists and the influence this has exercised on medieval historiography. Discussing recent interventions in the study of medieval ritualised communication, such as Philippe Buc’s The Dangers of Ritual, the Introduction argues that we need to pay far more attention to the explicitly formulated ‘native theories’ of gift giving available to medieval audiences, some of the most influential of which were those transmitted in classical literature and philosophy.
This article contributes to an ongoing critical examination of feasting by developing a classification scheme that emphasizes the variable contexts in which feasts have occurred. Many recent archaeological and ethnographic accounts have focused on the political and economic roles feasts play in creating power and status differences among participants, while others have highlighted how they build community and increase solidarity within a group. My scheme reconceptualizes the term by giving two independent variables—group size and level of sociopolitical competition—equal roles in determining whether a given eating event is a feast; in turn, my dual-dimensional model facilitates more sophisticated interpretations of archaeological remains. After outlining its utility for describing and comparing eating events, this article evaluates the evidence for feasting at a precontact Native American mound site in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Botanical, faunal, and ceramic analyses of materials from the Feltus mounds (AD 750–1100) reveal fairly typical food-related assemblages, whereas the sheer amount of material, speed with which it was deposited, and size of individual specimens are exceptional. The resulting interpretation emphasizes feasting's role in creating and maintaining group solidarity at Feltus and advances understanding of noncompetitive outcomes of feasting behavior in the precontact American Southeast.
Much of what is known about the Indigenous city of Cahokia, located in and influential on the North American midcontinent during the eleventh through fourteenth centuries AD, derives from decades of salvage, research, and CRM excavations in the surrounding American Bottom region. We use this robust dataset to explore patterns of building conflagration that suggest these practices of burning were part of pre-Mississippian traditions that were bundled into new Cahokian landscapes during the early consolidation of the city. These bundled practices entangled sources of power that were at once political and religious, thus transforming the practices and meanings associated with terminating building use via fire.
Scholars have not yet expounded on the importance and rationale of a key metaphor found in the Epistle of Barnabas: the circumcision of hearing (Barn. 9.1–3). In part, that is because the significance of this metaphor does not directly contribute to the theological outlook or background of Barnabas, which are topics that have largely preoccupied Barnabas scholarship. Yet, not only is this metaphor significant, but its significance lies in its social and communal implications. To explore these implications, I draw upon interdisciplinary research on canon and ritual. Research in these areas has independently demonstrated that canon and ritual are fundamental elements of any group, and I employ theoretical tools from these research areas to explain how Barnabas attempts to create and/or sustain his group by offering a new canon (or canonical interpretation) that could only be understood through the circumcision of hearing. Owing to the theoretical richness of canon and ritual, my study can also serve as a methodological template to examine the dynamics of other communal groups.
The Canterbury Hinterland Project (CHP) has combined aerial photographic and LiDAR analysis, synthesis of HER and other data across east Kent with targeted survey south and east of Canterbury. We present possible hillforts, temples, large enclosures, a major trackway, linking paths, burials and high-status Roman-period complexes and argue that people organised the landscape to communicate meaning in two main ways: a ‘public’ face oriented towards the Dover–Canterbury road and expressions of ritual and remembrance for local groups. The character of this rural population has traditionally been understood in terms of its relationship to the civitas capital and villas; we look beyond this to examine a more detailed vision of possible social interactions.
This project considered the deposition history of a burned structure located on the Kalispel Tribe of Indians ancestral lands at the Flying Goose site in northeastern Washington. Excavation of the structure revealed stratified deposits that do not conform to established Columbia Plateau architectural types. The small size, location, and absence of artifacts lead us to hypothesize that this site was once a non-domestic structure. We tested this hypothesis with paleoethnobotanical, bulk geoarchaeological, thin section, and experimental firing data to deduce the structural remains and the post-occupation sequence. The structure burned at a relatively low temperature, was buried soon afterward with imported rubified sediment, and was exposed to seasonal river inundation. Subsequently, a second fire consumed a unique assemblage of plant remains. Drawing on recent approaches to structured deposition and historic processes, we incorporate ethnography to argue that this structure was a menstrual lodge. These structures are common in ethnographic descriptions, although no menstrual lodges have been positively identified in the archaeological record of the North American Pacific Northwest. This interpretation is important to understanding the development and time depth of gendered practices of Interior Northwest groups.
Culture, mainly defined as values and beliefs, has recently attracted much attention in economics. Cultural practices receive less attention, as emphasized in anthropology. We argue that the notion of ‘ritual’ can enrich economic research on culture as a specific form of socially standardized interactions that create shared contexts and emotions to build mutual trust and community. China is an important case in point, because ritual is a central concern in common interpretations of traditional Chinese culture. We look at practices of Chinese entrepreneurs that activate rituals in various settings. We conclude that these phenomena can be analytically condensed in the cultural complex of a ‘ritual economy’.
The site of Ceibal was founded around the beginning of sedentary life in the Maya lowlands. Excavations at the Karinel Group within the site reveal domestic structures and ritual deposits dating to the Middle Preclassic, Late Preclassic, and Terminal Preclassic periods (c. 1000 BC–AD 300). The results complement data from Ceibal's Central Plaza and publications on early households in other regions of the lowlands, inviting future investigations of temporal and geographic variation in Preclassic Maya domestic rituals.
Secrecy and its performative display have been privileged perspectives in the study of poro and similar power associations in West Africa. I develop an alternative understanding of the Senufo poro as an institution that fosters and sustains bodily experience, establishing an all-embracing sensory regime for members as well as non-members in their villages. Participation in nighttime funerary rites creates the image of an invisible social body, and shared bodily experience informs collective intentionality towards the social. Serving as a stable nodal point in everyday discourse, this function contributes to the recent revitalization of poro associations in Côte d’Ivoire’s post-conflict society.
This chapter summarises what archaeological context can add to our understanding of coinage and its use in 49 BC-AD 14. Coin finds from military camps along the northern frontier are discussed, as are the coins found at Kalkriese, the site where Varus lost the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in AD 9. The mutilation of coins in political and ritual contexts is explored, as is the role of coins in temple economies more generally. In addition to official issues, there were also others types of coinage in use in the Roman world, and this chapter highlights the existence of 'pseudo-mints' at Pompeii and Minturnae, and the continued use of older currency in Corinth, North Africa and Egypt. The social uses of money is also introduced, including the role of coins in New Year's festivities in the Roman world.
The vast mortuary complexes of the Xiongnu, the world’s first nomadic empire (c. 200 BC–AD 100), were important statements of elite power and ritual commemoration in Inner Asia. Very few of the features that accompanied the main tombs, however, have been fully excavated and investigated. This study is one of the first to assess completely the small archaeological features—and associated faunal remains—that surround the more monumental structures, features that intimate substantial investments in, and ritual activities around, these mortuary arenas. This research provides an important contribution to the understanding of the social politics of ritual practices and the development of complex institutions in steppe pastoral societies.
Since its inception in 1830, an important feature of Mormonism has been its belief in a literal Devil and in the ability of the Devil to possess human beings. Despite the pervasiveness of these beliefs and practices, Mormon possession and exorcism is a largely unstudied phenomenon. What follows is a careful study of four historical accounts of Mormon exorcism rituals dating from 1830, 1839, 1888, and 1977, and their narrative presentations. This article traces the development of Mormon possession/exorcism beliefs and practices and situates them within their larger historical contexts. The article also describes the relationship between Mormon dispossession rituals and the dispossession rituals of Protestant and Catholic groups in American history and presents through a consideration of the impact of broader American cultural trends on the theory and practice of Mormon exorcism from 1830 to 1977.
This essay examines critical modes and dependencies of mid-nineteenth century spiritualism. It looks at the relationship between the ritual dynamics and promotional framings of rappings and séances, and it considers the contested location of those practices within nineteenth-century theories of religion. The argument is threefold: that components of spiritualist practice are better understood alongside certain commercial enterprises; that their examination demands reconsideration of the relative importance of belief, intellection, and criticism in religious ritual; and that, in light of nineteenth-century Americans' own critical thinking on these matters, we understand better the ways in which spiritualism itself became both a location and datum for Americans' definitions of religion. The long-ignored religious theory of P. T. Barnum supports reclamation of the Fox sisters' own ritual practices even as it illustrates the processes by which they were gradually exorcised from American religions, spiritualism, and their historiography. Meanwhile, evidence from court records, newspaper reports, and the professional careers of mediums and their debunkers aids reconstruction of a religious movement that consisted largely, for a time, in the formal recognition of its own skepticism and operational intrigue.
Archaeological evidence for ritual animal offerings is key to understanding the formation and evolution of indigenous Sámi identity in Northern Fennoscandia from the Iron Age to the seventeenth century AD. An examination of such evidence can illuminate how major changes, such as the shift from hunting to reindeer pastoralism, colonialism by emerging state powers and Christianisation, were mediated by the Sámi at the local level. To explore the chronology of, and local variations in, Sámi animal-offering tradition, we provide a synthesis of archaeozoological data and radiocarbon dates from 17 offering sites across Norway, Sweden and Finland. Analysis reveals new patterns in the history of Sámi religious ritual and the expression of Sámi identity.
Bells are recorded in many published excavation reports from Roman sites, but there has been no previous study of the British material. This paper explores the significance of bells in the Roman world from both a ritual and a functional perspective. We create a first typology of Romano-British bells, provide an understanding of their chronology and examine any spatial and social differences in their use. Special attention is paid to bells from funerary or ritual contexts in order to explore the symbolic significance of these small objects. Bells from other parts of the Roman world are considered to provide comparisons with those from Roman Britain. The paper demonstrates that small bells were used as protective charms and may have been preferentially placed into the graves of children and young women. The paper identifies a new, probably Roman type of bell that has no parallels within the Empire, although similar pieces occur in first- and second-century graves in the Black Sea region.