Session: #334

Theme & Session Format

1. Widening horizons through human-environment interconnections
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Human-Environmental Networks in Healing Cults, Rural Sanctuaries and Sacred Groves between Intersectionality and Transcultural Negotiation
Cult places in geographically exceptional positions, such as in caves, on mountain tops, or near springs, played supra regionally significant roles in different geographic and chronological contexts. Serving as important meeting points of local communities, these sanctuaries became transcultural hubs for shared economic spaces and resource landscapes. These cult places can be understood as human-environmental networks, where human and non-human actors were deeply entangled. Ritual experiences and cult(ural) practices built a common platform, allowing to overcome social differences and to negotiate personal identities. Which was the role of the non-human agency in these cult places? Did landscapes have a proactive role in sharing cult practices and in connecting communities?

Food for thought:

-Agency of Landscapes

Communities shaped sacred landscapes on their own socio-economic and religious needs. However, the environment also influenced the choice and the characteristics of cults. What role did landscape features play in the selection of sites for healing cults? Are their implications similar or did they variate in different sociocultural contexts?


The focus of these cults on non-human agency allowed worshipers to overcome social conventions and to create new temporarily shared reference values. Were these cults stages for the negotiation of personal identities? Did cult practices construct new or extraordinary identities?

-Sacralization of Resources

Resources, such as salt in pastoralism, wine in the Mediterranean, or rice in agricultural regions of India, became important elements in the semantics of cult. Did the sacralization of resources create spaces of negotiation between communities? Were healing cults bottlenecks in specific resource networks?

-Political Economy

Cult places could serve as institutions for the storage, control and redistribution of goods. Did social groups manipulate parts of the political economy through access to ritual activities, norms, values and beliefs? Can collective feasts at cult places be interpreted as expressions of socio-political power?
Sacred Landscapes, Resources, Knowledge, Cult practices, Contact zones, Political Economy
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
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Main organiser:
Raffaella Da Vela (Germany) 1,2
Robinson Krämer (Germany) 3
Chiara Blasetti-Fantauzzi (Germany) 4
Salvatore De Vincenzo (Italy) 5
1. SFB1070 ResourceCultures
2. Universität Tübingen, Institut für Klassische Archäologie
3. Universität Rostock, Heinrich Schliemann-Institut für Altertumswissenschaften
4. Freie Universität Berlin
5. Università della Tuscia, Dipartimento DISUCOM