(University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria)
Keywords: geoarchaeology; spatial analysis; ritual behaviours; prehistory
Temples, shrines and other ceremonial spaces have always been fascinating research contexts in archaeology, because of their high symbolic and cultural values. Though, while architectural structures and liturgical furniture are more easily recognisable and are therefore better studied, the understanding of what was happening inside these spaces, the ritual practice, is more evanescent, and this is especially true when there are no written sources that come in our help.
In this paper the author will discuss the approach adopted in her PhD project for the study of ritual behaviours, which is based on the analysis of sediments through the implementation of scientific methods adopted from the field of geoarchaeology. Rituals, in fact, are first of all human actions and as such they leave more or less visible traces. According to this deposit- oriented approach, ritual events will be identified and reconstructed from the material traces they left within mud-floors and, possibly, walls. The case study for this research is the so-called “Temple D”, unearthed in the pre- and protohistoric site of Arslantepe (Malatya, Turkey) and dated to the 3750-3300 BCE. The goal of this study is to show how such a methodological approach can help to overcome inherent visibility problems of ritual events, in order to gain a better understanding on the way a ceremonial space was used (nature of actions, cyclicity, spatial variations, etc.), and to ultimately reconstruct behavioural patterns.