AIA-1C: Cosmologies Across Boundaries: Disrupting the Iron Age-Roman Distinction in the Study of Religion in the Roman Northwest (Colloquium)

  Hybrid   AIA Session   Colloquium

Sponsored by:

AIA Roman Provincial Archaeology Interest Group


Alena Wigodner, Princeton University; Alex Rome Griffin, Lancaster University; and Pat Lowinger, University of Leicester/Peninsula College

Overview Statement

In the last decades it has become increasingly clear that, in the “Celtic” northwest, the distinct boundary between the Iron Age and the Roman period is one of scholarly convenience masking a highly fluid and complex lived reality. Disrupting this artificial boundary (defined by annexation into the empire) in analysis of urbanism, production, and trade to consider not only moments of rupture and replacement but also aspects of continuity or long-term trajectories of change has proven a powerful means to decenter Roman power in the study of these provincial regions. However, tracking issues of religion and ritual across this transition presents unique challenges: evidence of Roman influence is highly visible in the form of newly introduced deities and newly built sanctuaries, while “Celtic religion” left no written record and was marked by comfort practicing ritual in natural spaces leaving little or no archaeological trace. Even the label “religion” is limiting. It implies a boundary between sacred and secular aspects of life, encouraging focus on evidence most traditionally associated with religion archaeologically: clearly delineated sacred spaces, named or depicted deities, and ritual practices with physical traces. In this session, we focus instead on cosmologies: ontological understandings of how the world works that permeate all aspects of life. By assembling studies considering this issue from a range of material perspectives, we aim to disrupt the boundary between Iron Age and Roman through the study of cosmologies in continuity, contact, and transition during this dynamic period.

“Finding Meaning in the Mundane” utilizes evidence of ritual from Iron Age Scotland to argue for the value—in the Iron Age and Roman period—of studying how ritual practices permeated everyday life.

“Reuse and Reinterpretation of Neolithic Megaliths” takes a broad chronological view, examining how both Iron Age and Roman period populations incorporated Neolithic sites into their religious practice and beliefs.

“Gender, Animals, and Cosmology” develops guidelines for studying cosmologies across boundaries through study of the ontological relationship between animal relations and gender dynamics visible in votive offerings.

“Romano-Celtic Temples as Multifaith Spaces” argues that at sanctuaries along the British frontier, Roman beliefs did not supplant but coexisted and interacted with those already in place in these dynamic spaces.

“Sequences and Sacred Sites” considers a single site over several centuries across the Iron Age-Roman boundary. The paper applies the concept of resonance to explore continuity of significance or meaning even as physical traces of ritual change.