Session: #438

Theme & Session Format

5. Assembling archaeological theory and the archaeological sciences
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Tracing Baptism in the Archaeological Record
Baptism is a sacrament of critical importance within the main Christian denominations. Within the early Christian church it was considered essential to cleanse a person of Original Sin, the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and subsequently inherited by humankind ever since. If baptism did not occur, however, then the sin remained in place and, as such, the unbaptised were condemned to Hell. A strong advocate for this position in the early church was St Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430) who believed that all infants should be baptised as soon as possible after their birth in order to avoid potential eternal damnation should they die unbaptised. This harsh doctrine was later modified by moderate theologians within the Medieval church who advocated the existence of Limbo. By the late 16th century, however, baptism had become a contentious issue between the Catholic Church and the Reformed Churches, and also within Counter-Reformation Catholicism with certain theologians placing extreme importance on the teaching of St Augustine and his views on what happened to the souls of the unbaptised after death and their burial in unconsecrated ground.
It is the intention that this session will provide new insights and challenge existing paradigms on baptism through approaches that include material culture, scientific, theological, historical, and architectural perspectives and approaches. Papers are invited to cover issues such as burial rites and practices for the unbaptised (e.g. children’s burial grounds), the material culture associated with baptism (e.g. religious objects and clothing), and the architectural expression of baptism (e.g. sanctuaires à répit [respite sanctuaries], shrines, and baptismal fonts). Papers that focus on the scientific analysis of infants that might provide insights concerning whether or not they were live or still born and hence potentially baptised are also welcome.
Children, Religion, Unbaptised, Burial, Sanctuaries, Counter-Reformation theology
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Main organiser:
Colm Donnelly (United Kingdom) 1
Mark Guillon (France) 2
Eileen Murphy (United Kingdom) 1
Émilie Portat (France) 3
1. Archaeology & Palaeoecology, School of Natural & Built Environment, Queen's University Belfast
2. Inrap & PACEA UMR 5199 CNRS Université de Bordeaux
3. Direction de l'archéologie, Chartres Métropole UMR - CNRS 7041 ArScAn, TranSphères