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First investigated archaeologically in 1963, it is only with the recent publication of the 2006–2008 excavations that the nature of the Early Bronze Age sanctuary and settlement on Keros is becoming clear. Further investigations – a survey in 2012–2013 and excavations in 2016–2018 – have expanded our knowledge of the sanctuary. This paper sets out the interdisciplinary nature of the research on Keros, highlighting the contribution of a panoply of environmental techniques built into the project methodology from its inception, with all sampling taking place during the excavation itself. In addition, compositional and microscopic analyses of materials such as ceramics, metals and marble contribute to understanding their manufacture and provenance. Finally, taphonomic analyses include micromorphological and soil-chemistry studies, both of which are the largest of their kind yet undertaken in the Aegean. The reflexive contribution of all these specialisms to the ongoing study and publication of the site is described.
Recent research at Liangzhu in China documents the settlement as a fortified town dating from 3300–2300 BC, accompanied by an impressive system of earthen dams for flood control and irrigation. An earthen platform in the centre of the town probably supported a palace complex, and grave goods from the adjacent Fanshan cemetery include finely worked jades accompanying high-status burials. These artefacts were produced by a complex society more than a millennium before the bronzes of the Shang period. The large-scale public works and remarkable grave goods at Liangzhu are products of what may be the earliest state society in East Asia.
The origins of religion and ritual in humans have been the focus of centuries of thought in archaeology, anthropology, theology, evolutionary psychology and more. Play and ritual have many aspects in common, and ritual is a key component of the early cult practices that underlie the religious systems of the first complex societies in all parts of the world. This book examines the formative cults and the roots of religious practice from the earliest times until the development of early religion in the Near East, in China, in Peru, in Mesoamerica and beyond. Here, leading prehistorians and other specialists bring a fresh approach to the early practices that underlie the faiths and religions of the world. They demonstrate the profound role of play ritual and belief systems and offer powerful new insights into the emergence of early civilization.