A Prehistory of Belief

By Dr. Mike Williams

Research into the human mind shows that much spiritual experience, especially that induced through trance, is common to all people at all times. This provides a new way of exploring what prehistoric people may have thought about their world and how they formulated what we might recognise as religious belief. Examining images created by Palaeolithic artists, shapeshifting practices of Mesolithic hunters, the conception of the afterlife within Bronze Age communities, and why Iron Age people slaughtered some of their own in gruesome bog-side executions, a new past reveals itself in which peoples’ beliefs come to the fore. Using ethnographic evidence from historical shamans, the article shows how concepts of death, the afterlife, and even agriculture arose because of what people believed.

Keywords: Prehistory, Europe, Belief, Shamanism, Cognition, Trance, Afterlife

Human Sacrifice in Ancient Egypt

By Dr. Lisa Swart

The ritual sacrifice of human beings has been practiced regularly throughout history in various forms and for various reasons. Mention of the words “human sacrifice” for many people brings to mind gruesome scenes of Aztec priests ripping out the still-beating hearts of their unwilling victims in a debauched sadistic ritual replayed continually on television documentaries worldwide. As such, human sacrifice is not typically associated with Ancient Egypt and is still considered a controversial topic despite evidence to the contrary. It was long believed that the Egyptians were too civilized to perform this type of barbarous deed, an excellent example of the transmission of western moral superiority onto the Ancient Egyptians. In fact, the sacrifice of humans is attested in two primary forms in Ancient Egypt. The first being the practice of killing servants (retainer sacrifice) during the formative years of the Egyptian state, and ritualized sacrifice within a magico-religious context that appeared in later periods at the peak of Egyptian civilization. 

Keywords: Ancient Egypt, Human Sacrifice, Ritual Sacrifice, Retainer Sacrifice, Beliefs, Afterlife

The Sacred Image of the Palladium

By Eva Alex. Statherou, Graduate in Humanities and Arts in Greek Culture and Civilization

The Palladium, perhaps the most legendary and sacred image among the miraculous cult idols of Greek antiquity, was both a unique talisman of divine power and an insuperable political weapon. Said to have fallen from the heavens, this mysterious statue was an indisputable symbol of divine authority over the land in which it stood and the most powerful cities of the Graeco-Roman world vied for its ownership. 

Keywords: Greece, Rome, Troy, Palladium, Mythology, Cult, Beliefs, Shamanism

Unmasking Ancient Colour: Colour and the Classical Theatre Mask

By Andrea Sinclair, M.A.

The purpose of this article is to provide the reader with an overview of the characteristics of traditional theatre masks from the Hellenistic Greek and the Roman Imperial periods. The primary literary source employed to illustrate this discussion is the Onomasticon of Julius Pollux, which will be examined from the point of view of the importance of colour to convey meaning in the creation of a theatrical mask. 

Keywords: Ancient masks, Greek and Roman mask, classical theatre, mask colour, gender and mask, Julius Pollux on mask

Numismatic Iconography in Ancient Greece

By Jesse Obert, B.A.

Coins provide an influential medium for the artistic expression of a community. Like modern countries, the ancient Greek cities displayed their cultural ideas and traditions on their coinage. However, every coin needed to quickly and clearly communicate its origin as each state had its own system of values. Ultimately, ancient coin iconography serves a practical purpose, but also provided an artistic window into the social self-perception of the community. 

Keywords: Classical Greece, Coins, Iconography, Symbolism

Unmuddling Ancient Choices: How Modern Mudbrick Houses Can Help Us Understand Ancient Egyptian Houses Better

By Maria Correas-Amador, M.A.

The vast majority of houses in ancient Egypt were built with mudbricks; however, we do not know as much about them as we do about other aspects of Egyptian culture. Many contextual factors are involved in building choices, most notably human decisions, and reproducing all those factors is particularly difficult. However, a study of modern Egyptian mudbrick houses has proved useful in providing clues about the features, distribution and use of space in ancient Egyptian houses.

Keywords: Houses, Ancient Egypt, mudbrick, ethnoarchaeology

Exploring Pastoral-Nomadic Origins and Population History of the Xiongnu Confederacy of Iron Age Mongolia

By Dr. Ryan W. Schmidt

This article discusses the complex history of Mongolia during the Xiongnu Period (209 BCE – 2nd Century CE). The origins of the Xiongnu are still relatively unknown to archaeologists. I describe on-going research of these pastoral nomads and attempt to elucidate questions of their provenience and biological relationships to other groups in the region, specifically to groups in China and Siberia. Current hypotheses suggest a complex population history, and data from bones, genes, and artifacts attest to this complexity. Here, I show that the Xiongnu are not entirely biologically homogenous and are closely related to both nomadic Chinese and Siberian populations.

Keywords: Mongolia, Xiongnu, genetics, archaeology, anthropology

Kalyāṇa Copper Plates of Śilāhāra King Chittarāja (1019 CE)

By Mr. Shashikant Dhopate and Dr. Rupali Mokashi

The Śilāhāras of north Kokaṇa originated as a feudal clan of the Rāṣṭrakuṭas (c. 800 CE-1265 CE). Hitherto only five copper plates issued by the twelfth Śilāhāra king Chittarāja (1022 CE – 1035 CE) or by his vassals are known and deciphered. V. V. Mirashi compiled them all in his epic volume ‘Inscriptions of the Śilāhāras’ published in the Corpus Inscriptinum Indicarum series in 1977. The recent discovery of the Kalyāṇa grant in May 2012 fills the gap between the ṭhāṇe Copper Plates of king Arikesarī (1017 CE) and the Bhōīghara Plates of king Chittarāja (1024 CE) confirming the fact that Chittarāja had certainly ascended the throne by 1019 CE. The object of the present plates was to record the grant of a village and an orchard by king Chittarāja to a learned Brāhmaṇa of Jāmadagnya Vatsa Gotra called Rāmba Paṃḍita for the performance of religious rites. The details recorded by the grant provide a fascinating glimpse into the socio-religious life and administrative machinery of eleventh century India.

India, Śilāhāra Dynasty, Copper Plates, King Chittarāja, Kalyāṇa grant, Brahmin

Anomalies in the Social Norm: A Description of Deviant burials in the British Archaeological Record

By Amy Talbot, B.A.

This article discusses what are known as deviant burials - i.e. battle graves and execution graves - in Anglo-Saxon England from the 7th CE onwards.  

Keywords: Deviant Burials. Battle Graves, Execution Graves, Skeletons, Society, Anglo-Saxon, Britain

Symbols of Mortality at a Scottish Graveyard

By Lorraine Evans, M.A.

Burial grounds have been fashioned as much by the people who founded and used them, as by the buildings, gravestones and other features which they contain. Graveyards can also be used as records of social change, the symbols engraved upon individual memorials convey a sense of peoples inherent belief systems, as they were constructed, adapted or abandoned depending on people’s needs. Their stones tell of the extraordinary events that once shaped the community as a whole and provide a rare insight into the small details of daily life long since gone. 

Keywords: Memento mori, death, skull and crossbones, cemeteries, burial grounds, gravestones, mausoleum, Scotland, Medieval

Dinosaurs on Ice: A Review of Arctic and Antarctic Dinosaurs

By Tristan Stock

Dinosaurs are often thought to have lived in warm-weather environments, like swamps and tropical forests, and for a long time these were the only places where we found their fossils. However, recent discoveries over the last 20 years have proven this false, and revealed that dinosaurs were not just limited to the warm-weather world of the Equator. Fossils of dinosaurs have been turning up in the most unlikely of places, from the frigid cold of Alaska’s North Slope, to coastal Mountains of Antarctica. What were these animals doing in what are today the harshest environments on Earth? And how on Earth did they survive in such unforgiving conditions?  

Keywords: Palaeontology, Polar, Dinosaurs, Leaellynasaura, Edmontosaurus, Troodon, Pachyrhinosaurus, New Zealand

The Minerva Cultural Association: "Cultural Heritage" Online

By Dr. Cristiana Margherita and Dr. Tommaso Saccone

The Minerva Cultural Association was founded in 2010 by a group of students, Dr. Tommaso Saccone (President), Dr. Roberta Vico (Vice President) and Dr. Cristiana Margherita (Treasurer), of the Faculty of Conservation of Cultural Heritage of Ravenna - Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna, and aims to promote an actual culture of respect for nature, art, history and traditions of Italy and to protect our heritage that is not only a fundamental part of our roots and identity, but also one of the largest resource of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy.  

Keywords: Italy, Cultural Heritage, Emilia-Romagna, Digital Archaeology, 3D, Websites  

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