Terms of Religion & Ritual

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Ancestor Cult

Ancestor Cult

Defintion

  • A ritual of system of respect and honor of the spirits of dead ancestors
  • For the purpose of avoiding evil consequences and securing good fortune 

Archaeological example from Egypt 

  • Mastaba tombs at Saqqara
  • The rooms above ground acted as miniature temples for offerings
  • The living would leave food & drink for the dead
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Animism

Animism

Definition

  • The belief that natural objects, natural phenomena and the unvierse itself possess souls
  • Natural objects have souls that may exist apart their material bodies
  • The souls is the principle of life & death
  • Believers see themselves as a part of nature rather than superior to it.

Archaeological example (None from Egypt)

  • Star Carr, Yorkshire - Mesolithic hunter-gatherer site
  • A lot of Faunal remains found - most famous is the top part of a Stag skull
  • Complete with antlers, the skull had two holes punctured in the top 
  • Suggested uses are as a hunting disguise or a from ritual
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Art & Iconography

Art & Iconography

Definition

  • Art -  Visual form of creative skill or imagination, produced for appreciation from the viewer 
  • Iconography- An artists use of imagery and themes that possess a symbolic meaning 

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The temple of Horus at Edfu 
  • The North-West coner of the Ambulatory depicts the ritual combat between Horus & Seth
  • Seth is shown as a small hippopotamus, who's destroyed by the 10 harpoons of Horus
  • Seth being a small hippopotamus symbolises his limit in power 
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Cremation

Cremation

Definition

  • A funerary rite
  • To reduce a dead body to basic chemical compounds and ashes and dry bone 
  • Acheived by heating the body to extreme temperatured by fire 

Archaeological example (none from Egypt)

  • The Great Dover Street Woman 
  • A gladiatrix who was cremated in an isolated burial 
  • Bones present although shrunken in size
  • (The Romans were unable to acheieve enough heat to reduce the body to ashes) 
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Excarnation

Excarnation

Definition

  • Burial pratice of removing the flesh and organs from the dead
  • Leaving only the bones 
  • Sometimes a body is put on a burial platform and left for animals to scavenge from

Archaeological example (none from Egypt)

  • Seahenge is a speculated site for excarnation
  • An upside-down tree stump could've provided a burial platform for an exposed burial
  • A ring of wooden posts surrounding the structure could be interprted as a mortuary enclosure 
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Focus of Attention

Focus of Attention 

Defintion

  • An iconographic, sculptural or architectural feature that draws the attention of the worshipper 
  • As such that they concentrate on it & are drawn into the holy nature of where it's situated 

Archaeological Example from Egypt

  • The pylon gateways at Karnak 
  • Carved with scenes of Rameses 'victory' against the Hittities at Kadesh
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Funerary Ritual

Funerary Ritual 

Definition

  • A ceremony or group of ceremonies held in connection with the burial or creamtion of a dead person
  • The burial procession accompanying a body to the grave

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The mastaba tombs at Saqqara 
  • Contained a room called the 'Serdab' which contained a statue of the dead 
  • The statue would recieve prayers and incense offerings
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Grave Goods

Grave Goods

Definition

  • A type of votive offering/deposit 
  • Inorganic objects which have pratical uses
  • These objects will travel with the deceased into the afterlife

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The tomb of Tutankhamun 
  • Over 1700 items found wthin the tomb
  • Chairs, Chariots, Beds, Food etc. found in the tomb, for the purpose of use in the afterlife
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Inhumation

Inhumation

Defintion

  • The action or practice of deliberate burying of the dead
  • In the ground, placed in a grave 

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The rock cut tombs at Abydos
  • These burials were cut into the ground 
  • The tombs had multiple rooms, in which the body was buried
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Liminal

Liminal

Defintion

  • The boundary or space between time or between two worlds
  • 'Participants' are in the threshold between their previous life/time etc. & the new way which the ritual estblishes

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The tombs of the Pharoah's of Egypt
  • Tutankhamun for example, the tomb reflects the Egyptian belief of the afterlife
  • The tomb becomes a liminal area to help the passage of the dead into the afterlife
  • Tutankhamuns tomb is aligned along an East-West access, with the kings head aligned to the west, the land of the of the Dead
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Magic

Magic

Definition

  • The power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or spuernatural forces
  • Sometimes through the use of spells or prayer 
  • Described as 'Heka' in Ancient Egypt

Archaeological example in Egypt

  • The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza - 5 boat pits found close to the pyramid 
  • The pits contained full-size wooden-planked boats which were not assembled
  • To be used in the afterlife and possibly for the journey there, Heka (magic) would've been used to assemble the boats to working order in the afterlife
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Monotheism

Monotheism

Definition

  • The belief in a single all-powerful God, as opposed to religions that believe in multiple Gods

Archaeological Example in Egypt

  • Tel el-Armana (Akhetaten) - the Egyptian city devoted to the sun God the Aten
  • The Great Aten temple was built to service the sun God, there was no roof and no need for the Naos as the sun was everywhere
  • The tombs of Tel el-Armana show depictions of Akhetaten & his family as they were mankind's intermediary with the Aten
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Myth

Myth

Definition

  • A traditional story 
  • Especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon
  • They typically involve supernatural beings or events

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • It has been argued & is possible that the shape of the Pyramid is symbolic of the mound of creation
  • Described in the Creation myth, Amun is said to have masturbated on it to create other Gods in Ancient Egypt 
  • There are many Myths in Egypt that explain many proccesses of life
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Pilgrim

Pilgrim

Definition

  • A person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons
  • They may give offerings or sacrfices or just pray

Archaeological example in Egypt

  • Abydos in Ancient Egypt has evidence of religious pilgrims making the journey there
  • For example Umm el-Qa'ab, is littered with shards of pottery left by pilgrims
  • Wall decorations from the Orsiris temple record journeys to & from Abydos as important pilgrimages.
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Polytheism

Polytheism

Definition

  • The worship of or belief in multiple deities
  • Usually assembled into a collective group of Gods & Goddesses
  • Each God/Goddess have their own religion and ritual practices

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The wall paintings of Tutankhamuns Tomb are a great example of polytheism
  • The North wall shows the God Ay, depicted as a Sem priest, Tutankhamun is shown as Orsiris, he is also shown before the goddess Nut
  • The South wall shows the king followed by Anubis, he also appears before Hathor, Isis is also represented
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Prayer/Participation

Prayer/Participation

Description

  • A request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity
  • Can be mass prayer or personal and more private & confined

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • Lector Priests at Karnak
  • Recited spells & hymns during temple rituals
  • They were some of the most prominent practitioners of 'magic' in ancient Egypt
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Priest/Ritual Specialist

Priest/Ritual Specialist 

Definition

  • Someone authorised to perform sacred rites of a religion
  • They act as a mediatroy agent between humans & God

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • Egyptian priests were 'temple officers' and served one month out of four
  • A eulogy for the deity was expected to be sung twice a day - many of these hymns were written on papyri, an example is the Chester Beatty IX papyrus scroll
  • Egyptian priests followed a strict cleaning & shaving regime explained in 'The Histories' by Herodotus - they washed twice a day, clean shaven, had no body hair etc.
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Propitiation/Votives

Propitiation/Votives

Definition

  • An action meant to regain someone's favour or making up for something you did wrong
  • Can be an offering made to God or a sacrifrice

Archeaological example from Egypt

  • The burial of sacred animals in the Late Period
  • Ordinary people would bury scared animals in order to ask the God a favour in exchange for the animal
  • The quantity of burials became bigger & bigger and vast animal necropolis survives at Saqqara
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Purity & Cleansing

Purity & Cleansing

Definition

  • The cleansing of something for a religious purpose
  • The cleansing tends to be prior to worship 

Archaeological example from Egypt 

  • An example is the mummification of the dead to ensure eternal life
  • Tutankhamun is a great example, his body during the mummification process was washed with natron solution, and the internal organs removed to prevent decay (and for use in the afterlife)
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Rites of Passage

Rites of Passage 

Definition

  • A ceremony marking the transition from one phase of life to the other 
  • Often used to describe the transition form adolescene to adulthood, but it refers to any of life's transitions

Archaeological Example from Egypt

  • The book of the dead - book of 200 spells for securing entry into the afterlife 
  • Is used to help them as a guide in order to overcome the trials on the way to the 'Field of Reeds'
  • Placed inside the coffin next to the deceased 
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Rites of Intensification

Rites of Intensification

Definition

  • A ritual or ceremony performed by a community in a time of crisis that affects all members
  • Mass ceremonies performed to mitigate danger 

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The Opet Festival - on it's (cult image of Amun) journey from Karnak to Luxor, it was accompanied by crowds of priests & priestesses 
  • Also large crowds of ordinary Egyptians joined in the precession
  • Singing & dancing an essential part of the ritual worship
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Ritual

Ritual

Definition

  • A religious ceremony conisisting of a series of actions peformed according to a prescribed order
  • These are repeated over time

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The Opening of the Mouth Ceremony - a ritual carried out on the mummy of the deceased and any funerary statues
  • Complex ritual with over 75 seperate acts:- sacrifice, purification, censing, anointing etc.
  • Normally carried out by the son & heir of the deceased as a last act of piety 
  • Written evidence of the ritual in the Pyramid texts, Coffin texts & the book of the dead
  • Evidence for the ceremony from the tomb of Tutankhamun
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Ritual Feasting

Ritual Feasting

Definition

  • The act of eating a meal or food to mark a religious occasion

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The Opet Festival- each spring, the festival was associated with re-creating the creation myth of Amun
  • Crowds of ordinary Egyptians lined the way fro the royal barque from Karnak to the Temple of Luxor, taking part in public feasting & enjoyment
  • The evidence for the festival comes from huge running sculptured panels from within Karnak & Luxor temples
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Sacrifice

Sacrifice

Definition

  • An act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrending a possession as an offering to the Gods
  • This makes the sacrificed being sacred

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The rock-cut tombs at Abydos
  • Near the royal tomb of Hor-Aha, 35 subsidary graves were found
  • Recent evidence suggests that the bodies were al sacrificed togther at the death and burial of the Pharaoh
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Sensory Experience

Sensory Experience

Definition

  • The experience of feeling something with your physical senses
  • This could be the belief of hearing/seeing/feeling a God

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The Great Aten Temple at Akhetaten - had no roof as it worshipped the sun God Aten 
  • The offerings made to the 365 alters, especially drink, would have appeared to be consumed by the Aten right before their eyes
  • Thus having a sensory experience of believing thy've seen a God 
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Shamanism

Shamanism

Defintion

  • A practice that involves a practitioner reaching an altered state of consciousness
  • This state of mind helps them encounter & interact with the spirit world 
  • The Shaman can then channel these energies into this world

Archaeological example (None from Egypt)

  • In Ethnoarchaeological studies of the Adi tribe in Northern India show they practice Shamanism
  • Thier Shaman, is female and is used to treat medical problems, provide remedies, spiritual healing and interact with the spirit world
  • These studies show how Shamanism is performed and how it would have been used within past socities
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Shrine/Temple/Ritual Structure

Shrine/Temple/Ritual Structure

Definition

  • A place regarded as holy because of its associations with divinity or a sacred person
  • A building devoted to the worship of a God or Gods
  • Usually have a point of focus which in most cases is a religious figure

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • Karnak - the largest religious site anywhere in the world
  • The Temple of Amun at Karnak - the Temple's orientation is East-West.
  • The 1st pylon gateway faces West, to the river and the setting sun 
  • The holy of holies is directly East of this Westerly entrance
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Symbolism

Symbolism

Definition

  • The use of symbols to signify ideas & qualities by givin them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense
  • An object representing another to give it an entirely different meaning that's more significant 

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The Pyramid is said to be symbolic of;

- A stairway to heaven

- Another 'swamp of creation' mound

- The shape symbolised the descending rays of the sun 

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Totemism

Totemism

Definition

  • The belief in which each human is thought to have a spiritual connection with another physical being such as animal or plant
  • Often called a 'Totem', the Totem is thought to interact with a given group or indivdual & to serve as their eblem or symbol

Archaeological example (none from Egypt)

  • Tomb of the Eagles in Orkney, Scotland
  • A Neolithic chambered tomb - 16,000 human bones were found as well as 725 from birds 
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Worldview

Worldview

Definition

  • A particular philosophy of life or conception of the world
  • How certain religions & cultures explain how the world came into being and the world itself

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The pyramids, at Giza, for example represent Ancient Egyptian worldview.
  • The shape is said to represent the 'mound of creation' which is a focal part of the Egyptian's version of how the world was created
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Worship

Worship

Definition

  • The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity
  • The ritual practice of doing/giving things for the Gods in return for appreciation

Archaeological example from Egypt

  • The Temple of Amun at Karnak - worship of Amun the most puzzling of all
  • Appears to center on the cult which is concerned with fertility
  • An important aspect of Amun was Amun-Min, usually depicted with an erect penis
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Comments

JDMcDougall

Useful summary of all the key terms we need for Archaeology

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