Hamilakis, Yannis and Konsolaki, Eleni
Pigs for the gods: burnt animal sacrifices as embodied rituals at a Myceanean sanctuary.
Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 23, (2), . (doi:10.1111/j.1468-0092.2004.00206.x).
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The archaeology of animal sacrifice has attracted considerable attention, although discussions on the meanings and social effects of the practice in different contexts are rather under-developed. In the Aegean, classical antiquity has provided abundant literary, zooarchaeological and iconographic evidence (and has inspired some excellent studies) but it has also overshadowed discussion on sacrifice in other periods. Until recently, it was assumed that burnt animal sacrifices (i.e. the ritual burning of bones or parts of the carcass, often taken to be offerings to the deities) were absent from the pre-classical contexts. Recent studies have shown this not to be the case. This article reports and discusses evidence for burnt animal sacrifices from the sanctuary of Ayios Konstantinos at Methana, north-east Peloponnese. It constitutes the first, zooarchaeologically verified such evidence from a sanctuary context. The main sacrificial animals seem to have been juvenile pigs, which were transported as whole carcasses into the main cultic room; non-meaty parts were selected for burning whereas their meaty parts were first consumed by humans and then thrown into the fire (some neonatal pigs may have been thrown into the fire whole). The article integrates zooarchaeological, other contextual, and comparative archaeological evidence and explores the social roles and meanings of sacrifice in the Mycenaean context and more broadly. It is suggested that, rather than focusing on possible continuities of the practice through to the classical period (an issue which remains ambiguous), sacrifice should be meaningfully discussed within the broader framework of the archaeology of feasting, and more generally food consumption, as a socially important, sensory embodied experience. The evidence from Ayios Konstantinos may reveal a hitherto eluding phenomenon: small-scale, sacrificial-feasting ritual in a religious context, conferring cosmological and ideological powers on few individuals, through the participation in an intense, embodied, transcendental experience.
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