Article

Prehistoric Religions in the Aegean

Colin Renfrew

in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199232444
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199232444.013.0043

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

 Prehistoric Religions in the Aegean

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This article discusses the archaeology of religion in the prehistoric Aegean. For the Neolithic, the evidence of the figurines is widespread, but the extent to which their significance is ‘religious’ is open to debate. For the Early Bronze Age, funerary rituals are richly documented in Early Minoan Crete, and the iconography of the folded-arm figures in the Cyclades may well be indicative of religious practices. For the Middle Bronze Age, it is only in Crete that the cave and peak sanctuaries indicate rituals which the symbolic evidence from later periods suggests may already have been religious in nature. The indications from the Minoan palaces of the Later Bronze Age are still open to differing interpretations. It is only with the ‘temple’ at Ayia Irini on Kea and the evidence from the wall painting at the building complex of Xeste 3 on Thera, around 1500 bc that we find persuasive indications of cult observances which are clearly directed towards deities. Subsequently in the Later Bronze Age, Crete, the Cyclades, and Mainland Greece all give evidence of shrines and sanctuaries testifying to the practice of a religion or to religions.

Keywords: archaeology; Bronze Age; Minoan Period; Cyclades; funerary rituals; cults; temple; dieties

Article.  7708 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Prehistoric Archaeology

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