CFP: In/fertility and Sacred Space: From Antiquity to the Early Modern

Seen on various lists:

In/fertility and Sacred Space: From Antiquity to the Early Modern

Interdisciplinary Conference to be held in the University of Cambridge, July 15th-16th 2013

Call for papers (deadline 30 September 2012)

Concerns about fertility and children have been (and still are) common reasons for visiting, and more generally engaging with, the sacred spaces—sanctuaries and shrines, groves and grottoes—of many religions and cultures. The narratives, objects, and rituals associated with places of particular access to the divine across a wide chronological and geographical range testify to this insistent human need: stories of miraculous births, assorted reproductive ex-votos, and prayers for the sterile are, for instance, all prominent parts of this landscape. But, thus far, this phenomenon has not received the focused attention it deserves.

Relations between human reproduction, divinity and sacred space are therefore at the centre of this interdisciplinary conference. We hope to have thematic panels which cover the following issues:
· Gender and Reproduction: are requests for divine assistance made by women or men, or both? To female deities and saints or not?
· Fertility and Healing: do healing sanctuaries and saints specialise in fertility? Or is reproduction joined with other concerns?
· Reproductive objects: do concerns about fertility have particular affinities with particular kinds of artefacts or materials?
· Narrative reproduction: is there anything distinctive about stories of miraculous births in miracle collections?
There will also be sessions that address questions of continuity and change, similarity and difference, across time and space; and we warmly invite proposals for papers on all these topics and more, from as wide a range of perspectives as possible.

Abstracts of not more than 500 words (for 20 min papers) should be sent to Fay Glinister (fg310 AT cam.ac.uk) by 30th September 2012.

Organising Committee: Rebecca Flemming, Fay Glinister, Peter Jones, Lauren Kassell (University of Cambridge)

(This conference is organised under the auspices of the Wellcome Trust strategic award in the history of medicine on Generation to Reproduction (University of Cambridge); and with the support of the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge)

Child Sacrifice and the ‘Tophet’ at Carthage Redux

Tip o’ the pileus to Sally Winchester on the Classics list for alerting us to this one at LiveScience (which my spiders didn’t catch because it’s categorized as ‘strange news’ for some reason) … not a lot new in this one really, so here’s a bit from the end:

[…] In 2010 Schwartz and his colleagues used dental remains from 540 individuals to argue that the site was not primarily for ritual child slaughter, and they reiterate that stance in this month’s issue of the journal Antiquity. In the new article, the researchers cite several older studies to validate their methods for estimating infant ages from tooth fragments.

The team argues that many tooth fragments found at the Tophet were actually developing tooth buds from the jaws of fetuses and stillborn babies who could not have been live sacrifices. As evidence, they showed that half of the teeth lacked a sign of birth called the neonatal line. The stress of birth temporarily halts tooth development in newborns, creating a tiny, dark line in their tooth buds; however, the line doesn’t form until a week or two after birth.

Other researchers still believe the Tophet was a place for sacred killing.

“This is not a regular cemetery; the age distribution suggests they were sacrificing infants at the age of 1 month,” said Patricia Smith, an anthropologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Smith’s team published a 2011 paper questioning Schwartz’s dental analysis. The incredible heat and pressure generated during cremation usually erase the neonatal line, she said, so its absence isn’t a reliable measure of age. Schwartz’s team miscalculated how much teeth shrink in cremation, leading to an underestimate of infant ages, Smith argued.

Smith also doubts Carthage would have routinely cremated stillbirths or infants. Because of sky-high infant mortality rates, babies were probably not considered people until they were at least 1 or 2 years old. The Carthaginians chopped down most of their trees to plant crops and wouldn’t have used the precious wood to burn babies, she said.

“The Carthaginians were seafarers; they needed wood for ships, they needed wood for cloth, they needed wood for their tools,” she said.

We say there isn’t a lot new in this one because we did blog about it back in 2010 when it was first mentioned and my questions raised therein remain, I think. It also generated a lot of very useful discussion which folks will want to read: Child Sacrifice at Carthage?

Latest in the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles Repatriation Issue

From Kathimerini:

Alternate Culture Minister Costas Tzavaras on Wednesday announced the creation of a special advisory committee that is to coordinate a strategic national effort to secure the return of the Parthenon Marbles, a longstanding demand of the Greek authorities.

Speaking a few weeks after the British Museum denied reports that it was considering returning fragments of sculptures from the Parthenon to Greece, Tzavaras said the ministry was bringing together “individuals of influence, knowledge and long experience of efforts to repatriate the Marbles.”

The committee includes lawyers, archaeologists and senior government officials. “Greece’s moral right ranks above every objection based on arguments aimed at procrastinating and ignoring the basic principle which applies worldwide and demands that cultural monuments are repatriated,” Tzavaras said.

In a related development, a decision by the Central Archaeological Council has given the go-ahead for two movie projects to use the Acropolis and other archaeological landmarks as filming locations. The first film, called “Two Faces of January” and based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, is to star Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst under the direction of Iranian-British screenwriter Hossein Amini.

Scenes are to be filmed on the Acropolis in Athens and at Knossos on Crete though the crew has not been granted permission to film within the columns of the cordoned-off Parthenon. The crew reportedly had asked to film scenes depicting laborers on scaffolding around the Acropolis in the 1960s but were informed that there had been no works under way on the monument at that time and that such scenes would be anachronistic.

The second film that has been given a license to film on the Acropolis is an adaptation of “The Valley of the Roses” — a novel by the Swiss philhellene Paul Amadeus Dienach — to be filmed by Greek director Nikos Panagiotopoulos.

In January, Greek authorities said they would reduce filming fees for the use of the country’s archaeological sites in a bid to lure production companies and bring in much-needed revenue. Officials stressed that approved projects would not put any monuments at risk.

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem ix kalendas octobres

ante diem ix kalendas octobres

rites in honour of Latona at the Theatre of Marcellus

Mercatus — those cupboards must have been really empty!

484 B.C. — Birth of Euripides (?)

480 B.C. — Athenian naval forces under Themistocles defeat Xerxes’ Persian force in the narrows of Salamis (one reckoning)

63 B.C. — birth of Octavius, the future emperor Augustus

25 B.C. — dedication of the Temple of Neptune (and associated rites thereafter)

23 B.C. — restoration of the temple of Apollo in the Campus Martius (and associated rites thereafter)

117 A.D. — martyrdom of Thecla