Session: #367

Theme & Session Format

Archaeology of mountainous landscapes
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Stairways to Heaven? Mountainous Landscapes as Spiritual and Ritual Topographies
Beside their economic, sociopolitical and cultural importance, Europe's mountainous landscapes have always played and partly still play a central role in spiritual or religious activities and beliefs. Marginal, liminal landscapes or prominent peaks as "stairways to heaven" seem to have always fascinated and inspired people to imagine "supernatural" forces living and acting at these higher altitudes. And indeed, there are many examples of "sacred" alpine summits, glaciers and rocks, caves, lakes or mires where gods, ancestors or spirits lived and interacted with humans during the last millennia. Although the possibilities of archaeology are still limited to discover this invisible power or agency, recent discoveries of material remains already allow a more differentiated idea of ritual activities and the symbolic role of mountains. Therefore, this session aims to explore the nature of sacred or ritual topographies in mountainous and upland landscapes to develop a bigger and more coherent picture of different rituals, their archaeological indicators and the common characteristics of high-altitude "sacred" places. For this, it also seems essential to integrate these transitional topographies into other forms of daily life and economy (e.g. settlements, pastures, hunting grounds, exploitation of different raw materials, mobility and trade routes), and to critically explore how the perception of sacred landscapes was entangled with ancient communities. We would like to invite colleagues from all fields of archaeology, history, ethnology, biology, anthropology and other relevant fields to discuss various manifestations and methodological reflections on ritual activities in high altitude locations in a European or even global perspective, from hunter-gatherer societies through pastoral landscapes to the sacralization of mountains during the Modern Age.
Alps, Mountains, Sacrificial landscapes, High-altitude sacred spaces, Transdisciplinarity, Methodology
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Main organiser:
Thomas REITMAIER (Switzerland) 1
Martin Callanan (Norway) 2
Constanza Ceruti (Argentina) 3
1. Archaeological Service of the Canton of Grisons
2. Department of Historical Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim
3. Institute of High Mountain Research, Catholic University of Salta