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Crafting the sacred: Ritual places and paraphernalia in small-scale societies

Dimensions of Ritual Economy

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1485-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

Publication date: 6 May 2008


The archaeological record of small-scale societies is replete with examples of people expending considerable labor to craft both places and objects for communal rituals. Archaeologists often infer these efforts to have been the product of aspiring elites. This chapter focuses instead on the larger community responsible for the construction of places and objects, through a ritual economy analysis of the social logic people use to organize the production of ritual places and paraphernalia. A review of ethnographic and archaeological data suggests that the production of communal ritual places often involves the creation of sociograms, while the production of objects for use within these places encompasses a web of complementary and competitive relations. Two examples of large-scale communal ritual spaces, the early British Neolithic causewayed enclosures and the Ohio Hopewell geometric earthworks, are explored in light of these ethnographic and archaeological patterns.


Spielmann, K.A. (2008), "Crafting the sacred: Ritual places and paraphernalia in small-scale societies", Christian Wells, E. and McAnany, P.A. (Ed.) Dimensions of Ritual Economy (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 37-72.



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