Terje Oestigaard

in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199232444
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology


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Cosmogony has to do with founding myths and the origin and the creation of the gods and cosmos, and how the world came into existence. Cosmogony as a religious framework for understanding the world and the universe necessitates specific types of interactions and rituals with the divinities. Due to the strong influence of Mircea Eliade's work on cosmogony as a principle and process, this article focuses on his premises and analyses; criticism and development of cosmogony as a concept; and how it is possible to analyse cosmogenic rituals and religious practices as manifest in the archaeological record. This includes: rituals, with particular emphasis on death and sacrifices in the Aztec civilization; and monuments, with particular emphasis on the pyramids in the ancient Egyptian civilization, since these are processes and places where the dual interaction between humans and divinities took place, which recreated cosmos against the threat of chaos. Together, these case studies illuminate the possibilities of a cosmogenic perspective in the archaeology of ritual and religion despite the difficulties with Eliade's structural universalism.

Keywords: founding myths; Mircea Eliade; cosmogenic rituals; religious practices; death; sacrifice; Aztecs; monuments; pyramids; structural universalism

Article.  5607 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Historical Archaeology

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