The Sanctuary Project |

Intellectual underpinnings

The project is conceived of as a nexus between three bodies of research and two existing research collaborations.

1. The work of cognitive archaeology in interpreting the role of the earliest known sanctuaries, those created in the upper Paleolithic cave systems in France and Spain. The work of Lewis-Williams, Mithen and others has drawn on the art and organization of these sanctuaries to probe issues of human cognition, of social memory and of symbolic storage. This work in turn has inspired responses building on ideas of the extended mind and distributed personhood, and the ArcCog project based at Liverpool and Nottingham. We aim to explore how these debates might illuminate and be illuminated by considerations of classical sanctuaries.

2. Connected to this is work on object agency emerging from anthropologists including Nicholas Thomas and Alfred Gell and archaeologists such as Chris Gosden and Clive Gamble. This explores the power of images and other objects to act on humans, and can be connected with the debates over the role of images in classical sanctuaries, debates to which Mylonopolous and Gordon at Erfurt and Elsner at Oxford have made important contributions.

3. The spatial organization of sanctuaries, marked by the contributions of John Scheid, William van Andringa and Tesse Stek provides a means of accessing routinized and ritualized action as well as the social relations established (repeatedly) between gods and humans (in the emic perspective) or human and object agents (in an etic perspective).

The two existing collaborative networks:

4. A very new line of work on the lived experience of ancient religion, work conducted primarily in Erfurt under the leadership of Jörg Rüpke, and drawing in an international team of collaborators. This work, currently funded by an ERC grant (LAR), seeks to explore religious experience and action beginning from the perspective of human actors rather than social institutions.

5. The CURERE network led by Dr Katell Berthelot (CNRS, Aix) and Jonathan Price (Tel Aviv) is a group of rabbinical scholars, experts in Jewish history and in classical history that meets once or twice a year to develop an interdisciplinary dialogue between these disciplines.