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11 - The religions of prehistoric Europe and the study of prehistoric religion

from PART I - PREHISTORIC RELIGIONS

Lisbeth Bredholt Christensen
Affiliation:
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
David A. Warburton
Affiliation:
American University
Lisbeth Bredholt Christensen
Affiliation:
University of Freiburg, Germany
Olav Hammer
Affiliation:
University of Southern Denmark
David A. Warburton
Affiliation:
Aarhus University, Denmark
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Summary

In this chapter we take the liberty of looking critically at the contributions of the first section of this book. We do so on the assumption that crossing disciplinary borders is difficult: archaeologists have difficulties in discussing religion since religion is assumed to take place in the mind (in the form of ideas and thoughts, and thus in a form which is completely inaccessible in prehistory). Likewise, scholars of religion have difficulties speaking about prehistory, since they have no methodological tools for dealing with material culture (at least without any textual or verbal support whatsoever).

Furthermore, there are other issues which do not normally appear to be problematic in the study of religion. When studying known religions, there is no danger of confusing science and religion, and little of confounding myth and history. Given the neglect of material culture, the importance of art is likewise minimal. In these chapters we have seen how mankind gradually developed a capacity for artistic expression and later exploited iconography to depict the course of the sun. In these pages, religion was associated with social changes and group identities, without any gods. Yet according to the study of religion, religion and its elements are clearly a world apart – so far in fact, that Pascal Boyer (2001) can propose that religious thought is by nature counterintuitive.

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Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2013

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