Session: #172

Theme & Session Format

6. Material culture studies and societies
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Sacrifice & Value: Seeking an Anthropological Archaeology of Sacrifice
Archaeologists are often in a unique position to encounter evidence of ritual and sacrificial offerings in the past. However, such evidence varies wildly, both materially and contextually, and how we interpret such findings when they are encountered may also vary considerably. Indeed, sacrifices in some form or another are ubiquitous across societies around the world, and sacrificial practices and traditions have emerged, persisted and evolved in diverse contexts for millennia. Yet, archaeological interpretations of sacrifice, especially of the human variety, are often met with not just a healthy skepticism (as they should be), but they also often lead to controversy and even outright denial of the possibilities.
This session will explore archaeological interpretations of evidence of sacrificial offerings, whether they be of animals, objects or people, in whatever regions around the world they are encountered. Research that seeks to understand the archaeological evidence of such phenomena from cosmological, socio-cultural, ecological, economic and judicial perspectives are all welcome. We especially seek papers which attempt to engage with and untangle the myriad values possibly at play in sacrificial logics in the past and which explore the vicissitudes, vagaries and paradoxes of sacrificial practices in both relative and comparative contexts. A concern with perceived values furthermore means we seek to contextualize divides between objects/persons and thereby encourage papers which explore questions of personhood, identity and value in relation to sacrifice. We hope to investigate this fascinating subject with an eye towards better understanding the why behind acts of ritualized violence as offering, beyond the what and how so often necessarily the focus on the material record.
Sacrifice, Value, Ritual, Personhood, Offerings, Ritualised Violence
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Main organiser:
Matthew Walsh (Denmark) 1,2
Marianne Moen (Norway) 1
1. Museum of Cultural History, UiO
2. National Museum of Denmark