The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic
Like all human activities, ritual customs, intended to gain advantage or avert disaster by supernatural means, have left their mark on the archaeological record. Yet archaeologists are often reluctant to recognize evidence of behavior that has no obvious material purpose. Even where they realize that something unusual has occurred, they will put forward every other possible explanation in terms of accident or functional utility, however improbable. For the first time, Ralph Merrifield systematically looks at the evidence for European ritual from prehistoric times to the present day. In examining different kinds of ritual, superstition and magic whether animal sacrifice, offerings to earth and water, spells and charms, or antidotes to witchcraft he shows how common patterns of activity have continued with little alteration over the centuries. Through fundamental changes of religious belief from primitive animism to developed paganism, from paganism to Christianity, from traditional Catholicism to Protestantism, and even from religious faith to scientific rationalism the same kinds of simple ritual have survived to give comfort and a sense of security. Profusely illustrated, this provocative and readable study will not only be required reading for archaeologists at all levels, but will also appeal to all those interested in folklore and the oddities of human behavior."
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Offerings to earth and water in preRoman and Roman times
Rituals of death
From Paganism to Christianity
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acoustic pots amphora animal deposits archaeological archaeologists associated belief bellarmine beneath bones bottle Bronze Age building burial buried cemetery century bc charms Christian church City of London coins complete contained cremation cult curse custom Danebury dead decapitated deities deliberately ditch dogs earlier early evidence example excavated finds floor foundation deposits fourth century funerary grave head hoard horse-skulls Horseheath horses human inhumation intended Kent Lankhills late Roman later Llyn Cerrig Bach London Museum magic square magical mediaeval Museum of London nails Neolithic offerings pagan particularly perhaps pins placed possible pottery practice pre-Roman Iron Age presumably probably purpose recognised relics religious rite ritual deposits river Roman Britain Roman period sacrifice saints second century seems seventeenth century shaft shoes shrine similar skeletons skulls sometimes Southwark spirit stone axes Street suggested superstitious survived symbols temple tomb tradition votive deposit Walbrook wall witch witch-bottle witchcraft