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Ancient World Seminar: Gunnel Ekroth (Uppsala) – "To burn it all. Greek holocaustic sacrifices in practice and theory"

When:Mo 12-09-2016 16:15 - 17:30
Where:Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Oude Boteringestraat 38), room 130
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In holocaustic sacrifices the entire animal (or offering) was annihilated in the fire. Such rituals seem rarely to have been performed within Greek religion, which mainly focused on rituals where the animal was divided between gods and men and where the worshippers consumed the meat. This talk will explore some practicalities and theoretical implications of the holocaustic rituals. Of central importance is when and why holocaustic sacrifices were performed, that is, what circumstances called for this kind of action to be undertaken–certain deities or particular situations? The burning of an entire animal is also a complicated process as to practicalities. Were the victims flayed, the intestines removed, and the carcass cut into pieces before the body was put into the fire or were the animals actually intact? The paper will present some results from an archaeological experiment at Uppsala focusing on a holocaust of a pig and a sheep undertaken in 2014.

Gunnel Ekroth is Professor of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University. Her research mainly concerns the ancient Greek world and in particular various aspects of Greek religion. Her dissertation dealt with hero-cults during the Archaic to the Early Hellenistic periods (ca 700-300 BC) and has shown that (ritually speaking) the hero-cults were very close to the cults of the gods. She has later explored specific aspects of hero-cults at individual sites and monuments, but the heroes are more or less a concluded chapter in her research now. Presently, she is working on the surroundings of altars and the handling of garbage in sanctuaries. Another research analyzes to what extent meals eaten in domestic setting where surrounded by rituals or considered as holy in contrast to meals consumed in sanctuaries.