Special Issue "Unlocking Sacred Landscapes: Religious and Insular Identities in Context"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2021) | Viewed by 10305

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Giorgos Papantoniou
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Classics, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland
Interests: mediterranean archeology; landscape archaeology; ancient religions; ancient visual and material culture; ethnoarchaeology and cultural heritage studies
Dr. Athanasios K. Vionis
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Archaeological Research Unit, University of Cyprus, Nicosia 1678, Cyprus
Interests: historical archaeology; landscape archaeology; island archaeology; spatial analysis; Christian topography; material culture studies
Dr. Christine E. Morris
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Classics, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland
Interests: mediterranean archaeology; ancient ritual and religion; material culture studies; gender studies; cultural heritage; reception studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

‘Island archaeology’ emerged as a defined field during the 1970s, with many critiques and developments continuing to the present day. Historians and archaeologists have attempted to bring together issues of identities, insularities, and connectivities both in large and self-contained islands in terms of natural resources, but also in smaller island societies with limited resources. Within a wider field of rethinking the premises, agendas, and practices of island archaeology, an examination of how insularity has influenced the shape of historical events at a regional level and a focus on the domain of religion and its interaction with insularity remains a desideratum.

Inserting religion within a landscape perspective via an integrated approach, which carefully considers temporality, spatiality, and materiality, the Unlocking Sacred Landscapes Network invites historians and archaeologists to examine the function of religion in maintaining ‘social power’ (with the term including and considering both elite/official and non-elite/popular ideologies and cosmologies) in both large and smaller island societies.

This Special Issue will encompass various approaches both to ritual space and to artefacts relating to ritual practice and cult involving islandscapes (including landscapes and seascapes). The terms ritual and cult are used broadly to include sanctuaries, temples, and churches as well as the domestic and funerary spheres of life. We particularly welcome articles with a strong methodological and theoretical focus. Although the main focus of the Network is the Mediterranean region, we also warmly welcome relevant papers from colleagues working in other areas of the world, with a view to stimulating wider methodological dialogues and comparative approaches. The chronological range is also open, ranging from prehistory to the recent past and inclusive of ethnography, ethnoarchaeology, and cultural heritage studies.

In particular, we welcome contributions dealing with:

(1) Historical and culturally driven perspectives that recognize the complexities of island religious systems as well as the active role of the islanders in constructing their own religious identities, irrespective of emulation and acculturation.

(2) Inter-island and island/mainland relations, maritime connectivity of things and people, and ideological values in relation to religious change.

(3) The relation between island space and environment in the performance and maintenance of spiritual lives.

(4) The interrelation between official, popular, and personal identities, including ritual healing and magic in island societies.

(5) Phenomenological, performative, and experiential analyses related to ritual space and/or its associated material assemblages in island societies.

Dr. Giorgos Papantoniou
Dr. Athanasios K. Vionis
Dr. Christine E. Morris
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • island societies
  • sacred landscapes
  • ritual and cult
  • official, popular and personal religions
  • visual and material culture

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Article
Neolithic Ritual on the Island Archipelago of Malta
Religions 2022, 13(5), 464; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050464 - 20 May 2022
Viewed by 234
Abstract
This paper addresses the ritual of Neolithic Malta in its island context drawing on recent research by the FRAGSUS project. Ritualised club houses placed in horticultural enclosures formed the focal point of the prehistoric Maltese landscape in the fourth and third millennia BC, [...] Read more.
This paper addresses the ritual of Neolithic Malta in its island context drawing on recent research by the FRAGSUS project. Ritualised club houses placed in horticultural enclosures formed the focal point of the prehistoric Maltese landscape in the fourth and third millennia BC, providing a stable exploitation of the islands by the small populations of the period. This was a period when connectivity was more challenging than in the Bronze Age which followed, when Malta became part of the wider ritual patterns of the central Mediterranean and beyond. The paper provides discussion of the leading issues and arguments applied to this rich case study of island ritual. Full article
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Article
The Construction of Sacred Landscapes and Maritime Identities in the Post-Medieval Cyclades Islands: The Case of Paros
Religions 2022, 13(2), 164; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13020164 - 14 Feb 2022
Viewed by 805
Abstract
The Cyclades islands in the South Aegean initially attracted the attention of prehistorians approaching islands as ‘laboratories’ for the study of cultural development, examining the notions of ‘isolation’ and ‘connectivity’, or, more recently, by introducing new terminologies, such as ‘seascape’ and ‘islandscape’. The [...] Read more.
The Cyclades islands in the South Aegean initially attracted the attention of prehistorians approaching islands as ‘laboratories’ for the study of cultural development, examining the notions of ‘isolation’ and ‘connectivity’, or, more recently, by introducing new terminologies, such as ‘seascape’ and ‘islandscape’. The wealth of material remains of the post-medieval era in the Cyclades islands (e.g., ecclesiastical architecture, ceramics) and the textual record available (e.g., Ottoman tax registers, travellers’ accounts) provide fascinating evidence regarding the construction of sacred landscapes, self-expression, community, and maritime identities throughout the period of Ottoman domination. The main aim of this article is to examine the historical contingencies and the distribution of a vast number of rural churches, primarily as evidence for religious expression, in order to capture island dynamics and the formation of religious and community identities, as imprinted onto the sacred landscapes of the island of Paros. By shifting our focus from the imperial Ottoman to the local Cycladic, we come to appreciate islanders as decisive agents of their maritime identities, creating rituals and sacred spaces, sometimes beyond the strict borders of institutional religion. Full article
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Article
Cyprus and Sardinia at the Transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age: A Sacred Landscape Approach
Religions 2022, 13(1), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010048 - 05 Jan 2022
Viewed by 368
Abstract
In the framework of this contribution, and taking a macro-historic sacred landscapes approach, we established a comparative project analysing in parallel the development of sacred landscapes of two mega-islands, Cyprus and Sardinia, at the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age. In [...] Read more.
In the framework of this contribution, and taking a macro-historic sacred landscapes approach, we established a comparative project analysing in parallel the development of sacred landscapes of two mega-islands, Cyprus and Sardinia, at the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age. In both Cyprus and Sardinia, the period between the 12th and 8th centuries BC seems to have been a time when re-negotiations of individual, societal, and political identities took place, and this is clearly reflected on the construction of the sacred landscapes of the two islands. We first present our ‘landscape/macro-historic approach’; we then define the chronological horizon and the socio-historical contexts under discussion for each island, exploring at the same time how the hierarchical arrangement of ritual sites appearing at this transitional phase seems to be related with articulated social order or linked with shifting relations of power and cultural influence. Finally, we proceed to a discussion addressing the following three questions: (1) what is the relation between individual insularities and the construction of sacred landscapes on these two mega-islands?; (2) how can a ‘landscape/macro-historic approach’ assist us in better formulating microscopic approaches on both islands at the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age?; and (3) is a comparative approach viable? Full article
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Article
The Obstetric Connection: Midwives and Weasels within and beyond Minoan Crete
Religions 2021, 12(12), 1056; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121056 - 29 Nov 2021
Viewed by 865
Abstract
The Minoan peak sanctuaries call for systematic comparative research as an island-bound phenomenon whose significance to the (pre)history of medicine far transcends the Cretan context: they yield clay anatomical offerings attesting to the earliest known healing cult in the Aegean. The peak sanctuary [...] Read more.
The Minoan peak sanctuaries call for systematic comparative research as an island-bound phenomenon whose significance to the (pre)history of medicine far transcends the Cretan context: they yield clay anatomical offerings attesting to the earliest known healing cult in the Aegean. The peak sanctuary of Petsophas produced figurines of weasels, which are usually interpreted as pests, ignoring their association with votives that express concerns about childbirth, traditionally the first single cause of death for women. The paper draws from primary sources to examine the weasel’s puzzling bond with birth and midwives, concluding that it stems from the animal’s pharmacological role in ancient obstetrics. This novel interpretation then steers the analysis of archaeological evidence for rituals involving mustelids beyond and within Bronze Age Crete, revealing the existence of a midwifery koine across the Near East and the Mediterranean; a net of interconnections relevant to female therapeutics which brings to light a package of animals and plants bespeaking of a Minoan healing tradition likely linked to the cult of the midwife goddess Eileithyia. Challenging mainstream accounts of the beginnings of Western medicine as a male accomplishment, this overlooked midwifery tradition characterises Minoan Crete as a unique crucible of healing knowledge, ideas, and practices. Full article
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Article
Through the Eyes of a Mapmaker: Maritime Shrines on Cyprus during the Late Middle Ages
Religions 2021, 12(11), 1022; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12111022 - 21 Nov 2021
Viewed by 584
Abstract
Cyprus acquired special importance, especially from the thirteenth century onwards, on the Eastern Mediterranean’s pilgrimage network. Described by contemporary pilgrims as “Terra christianorum ultima”, the island was considered to be the last Christian land in the south-eastern Mediterranean on the pilgrims’ itinerary on [...] Read more.
Cyprus acquired special importance, especially from the thirteenth century onwards, on the Eastern Mediterranean’s pilgrimage network. Described by contemporary pilgrims as “Terra christianorum ultima”, the island was considered to be the last Christian land in the south-eastern Mediterranean on the pilgrims’ itinerary on their journey to the Holy Land. This study is concentrated on two maps of Cyprus dated to the fourteenth century and preserved in Milan: Biblioteca Ambrosiana, A95 sup. and Venice: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, gr. XI.21. It aims to explore the physical and spiritual mobility and interconnectivity in Cyprus during the late Middle Ages and to consider how these contribute to the development of pilgrimage sites directly related with maritime routes, seamen and travellers. These unique nautical maps captured the sea voyage which had Cyprus as a stopover, bringing to light new insights into fourteenth century Cyprus. The maritime shrines discussed in this article, which are usually “mixed” sacred sites, are directly related with sailors’ needs. They integrate into a wide network of communication, removing them partially from their local dimension. Full article
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Article
They Are Preserved Forever: Visualising the Memorialisation of Archipelagic Religious and Community Identities
Religions 2021, 12(11), 999; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110999 - 15 Nov 2021
Viewed by 897
Abstract
In this article, we respond to the Special Issue theme by addressing the complexities of religious identities in archipelagic communities where the dual role of the sea as conduit and barrier has impacted the parish system, farming estates and community life. The focus [...] Read more.
In this article, we respond to the Special Issue theme by addressing the complexities of religious identities in archipelagic communities where the dual role of the sea as conduit and barrier has impacted the parish system, farming estates and community life. The focus is primarily on nineteenth and twentieth century testimonies and material evidence, approached within a broader chronological context going back to the Middle Ages. Using qualitative GIS mapping of the habitations of the people memorialised in two burial grounds in Orkney, we visualise the active role of the islander in constructing identities linking people and place at parish, community and personal levels. The results show that the people with memorial stones were buried within a long-established parochial structure but did not adhere to ecclesiastical norms, with district burial grounds being favoured over a single parish churchyard. We conclude that this approach demonstrates the complexities of identities within an island community and identify its applicability in other contexts combining material culture and historical documentation to investigate religious island identities. Full article
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Article
Insularity and Religious Life: The Case of Hellenistic Ikaros/Failaka Island
Religions 2021, 12(11), 1002; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12111002 - 15 Nov 2021
Viewed by 704
Abstract
This paper explores the notion of insularity and religious life in the sacred landscape of Ikaros/Failaka with a particular focus on the Hellenistic period. The little island of Ikaros/Failaka in the Persian Gulf had a long pre-Hellenistic religious history and was occupied by [...] Read more.
This paper explores the notion of insularity and religious life in the sacred landscape of Ikaros/Failaka with a particular focus on the Hellenistic period. The little island of Ikaros/Failaka in the Persian Gulf had a long pre-Hellenistic religious history and was occupied by Alexander, explored by his officials and became part of the Seleucid kingdom. From the mid-20th century, archaeological missions working on the nesiotic space of the Persian Gulf have revealed material evidence that has altered our view of this remote part of the Hellenistic world. Research revealed a flourishing network of cultural communication and contacts between the indigenous population of the East and Greco-Macedonians. These interactions mirror the landscape of the Hellenistic East. Thus Ikaros/Failaka, an island on the periphery of the Seleucid kingdom, situated at a strategic point (near the mouth of the River Euphrates and close to the shores of the Persian Gulf) appears to be part of a chain of locations that possessed political/military, economic, and religious importance for the Seleucids. It became a fruitful landscape, where the Seleucids pursued their political and religious agenda. Full article
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Article
Ecclesiastical Economies: The Integration of Sacred and Maritime Topographies of Late Antique Cyprus
Religions 2021, 12(11), 989; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110989 - 11 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 745
Abstract
This article focusses on the relationship of the church with productive landscapes and coastal topographies within numerous Cypriot contexts of the 4th–8th centuries. Through synthesising the archaeological research and architectural remains of these aspects and categories, the coastal settlements of the island are [...] Read more.
This article focusses on the relationship of the church with productive landscapes and coastal topographies within numerous Cypriot contexts of the 4th–8th centuries. Through synthesising the archaeological research and architectural remains of these aspects and categories, the coastal settlements of the island are recontextualised in terms of their mercantile, religious, and cultural networks, on inter- and intraregional scales. The advantages of researching late antique insular societies on local, individual scales and within economic contexts are therefore highlighted. These integrative approaches can illuminate the constructions of religious identity across many coastal contexts, particularly in larger islands with micro-regions and trans-Mediterranean connectivity, like Cyprus. By considering the importance of the administrative and economic roles of the late antique church within these maritime topographies, future archaeological research can integrate both the monumentality and pragmatic aspects of sacred landscapes. Full article
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Article
Mortuary Landscapes Revisited: Dynamics of Insularity and Connectivity in Mortuary Ritual, Feasting, and Commemoration in Late Bronze Age Cyprus
Religions 2021, 12(10), 877; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100877 - 14 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 871
Abstract
The aim of the paper is to discuss mortuary contexts and possible related ritual features as parts of sacred landscapes in Late Bronze Age Cyprus. Since the island was an important node in the Eastern Mediterranean economic network, it will be explored whether [...] Read more.
The aim of the paper is to discuss mortuary contexts and possible related ritual features as parts of sacred landscapes in Late Bronze Age Cyprus. Since the island was an important node in the Eastern Mediterranean economic network, it will be explored whether and how connectivity and insularity may be reflected in ritual and mortuary practices. The article concentrates on the extra-urban cemetery of Area A at the harbour city of Hala Sultan Tekke, where numerous pits and other shafts with peculiar deposits of complete and broken objects as well as faunal remains have been found. These will be evaluated and set in relation to the contexts of the nearby tombs to reconstruct ritual activities in connection with funerals and possible rituals of commemoration or ancestral rites. The evidence from Hala Sultan Tekke and other selected Late Cypriot sites demonstrates that these practices were highly dynamic in integrating and adopting external objects, symbols, and concepts, while, nevertheless, definite island-specific characteristics remain visible. Full article
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Article
Saints, Sacred Trees, and Snakes: Popular Religion, Hierotopy, Byzantine Culture, and Insularity in Cyprus during the Long Middle Ages
Religions 2021, 12(9), 738; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090738 - 09 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1300
Abstract
The holiness of sacred spaces is expressed through the creative synthesis and performance of different symbolic or iconic elements. This article concentrates on the medieval church of Ayios Iakovos in Nicosia, Cyprus. Dedicated to Saint James the Persian, the church became, by the [...] Read more.
The holiness of sacred spaces is expressed through the creative synthesis and performance of different symbolic or iconic elements. This article concentrates on the medieval church of Ayios Iakovos in Nicosia, Cyprus. Dedicated to Saint James the Persian, the church became, by the 1600s, a shared shrine for Christians of different denominations (Orthodox, Maronites, and Latins) and Muslims. The aim of this article is to investigate in an interdisciplinary way the formation, adaptation, and negotiation of insular religious identities in relation to Ayios Iakovos’ hierotopy, official and popular religious practices, and the appropriation of Byzantine culture. The components in the creation of this sacred space reflect long-term contact between Cyprus and Greater Syria, constructing an inclusive religious environment with its own insular characteristics. It will be argued that these characteristics were shaped by global, regional, and local developments, including trade, pilgrimage, war, and environmental changes. Being in dialogue with recent scholarship on mixed sacred sites, this case study stresses the importance of interconnectivity and mobility in the creation of shared places of worship. It also shows that phenomena of religious co-existence and syncretism do not always result in homogenisation but maintain distinct group identities. Full article
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