Saturday, October 24, 2020


Mediterranean Archaeology Australasian Research Community (MAARC)





Session Organizers: Larissa Tittl, University of Melbourne and Caroline Tully, University of Melbourne

Session abstract:

The scent of citrus and of brittle pine

suffused the island. Inside [Calypso] was singing

and weaving with a shuttle made of gold.

Her voice was beautiful. Around the cave

a luscious forest flourished: alder, poplar,

 and scented cypress. It was full of wings.

Birds nested there but hunted out at sea:

the owls, the hawks, the gulls with gaping beaks.

A ripe and luscious vine, hung thick with grapes,

was stretched to coil around her cave. Four springs

spurted with sparkling water as they laced

with crisscross currents intertwined together.

The meadow softly bloomed with celery

and violets. He gazed around in wonder

and joy, at sights to please even a god.

Description of Calypso’s cave in Homer’s Odyssey, Book 5, l.60-74, tr. Emily Wilson


The Mediterranean landscape, in both a geographical and imaginative sense, is interconnected with religion, as idea and practise, in many significant ways. The topography and terrain of both land- and seascape are the focus of ritual activity; iconographic and textual responses concerning deities, sacred places, and other-than-human beings; the building of religious architecture; the worship of or ritual engagement with natural features and phenomena: a landscape saturated with sacred elements. And all of this sits alongside and is aligned with wider social, mortuary, and memorialisation practices.

Once considered merely an inert backdrop for human activity or as a series of material affordances or constraints, landscape has increasingly come to be understood as a ‘stage constructed in the mind’ (Ashmore and Knapp 1999: 8) comprising taskscapes of nested activities, palimpsests of memory, association and affect, sites of situated in-dwelling, accumulation, and inscribed attachments over time. Phenomenologically, space and time converge in place, a dialectical position which recursively shapes and is shaped by human agents and thus anchors human ontologies in time and place. Symbolic cultural landscapes include the terrestrial planes of human activity as well as natural phenomena including diurnal and seasonal cycles, and celestial elements such as the sun or the night sky. With nature thus reconfigured as a cultural construction, ideology—political, religious—can be used to normalize or contest the social status quo, to resolve or exploit social tensions around identity and inequality.

What is the role of religion in these systems of power and hierarchy, domination and resistance, identify formation and negotiation; how does landscape fit into this nexus? How did humans in the ancient Mediterranean respond to their environment through or with a sense of the sacred? Was the landscape sentient, numinous or was it just a meeting place for humans and divinities?

This session calls for contributors who research religion and ritual in the context of landscape across the Mediterranean in both space and time: Neolithic to Late Antiquity; the coastlines, hinterlands and connected places that comprise the Mediterranean in the widest geographical and theoretical sense. We invite both theoretically informed papers—including those with new, radical or experimental approaches—and papers based in rich interpretations of fieldwork and survey data, or museum collections. Also welcome are papers that incorporate textual and epigraphical evidence alongside archaeological material. 

Session format:  20-minute papers followed by 5 minutes for questions and discussion.


Proposals for papers should be sent to and must include the following information:

• Title of the Paper

• Name, affiliation and email of the proposer(s)

• Title of the themed session for your paper

• A short abstract of your proposed paper (of not more than 200 words)


The deadline for the submission of all paper and poster proposals is the 30th of November 2020.


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