Abstract: Animals in Ancient Greek and Roman Cult and Ritual

Drawing upon a host of information from ancient literary, artistic, and archaeological evidence, this lecture surveys the use of animals in ancient Greek and Roman cult and ritual. Beginning with the ancient Greek world, examples are drawn from the examination of deposits of bones and other remains recovered in excavations of ceremonial altars and ritual pits. The various types of burnt and unburnt animal sacrifices are discussed, with reasons outlined for the portioning of different animals and different parts of animals to a range of gods, heroes, and celebrants in attendance at, or being honored at, these events. Turning to Roman contexts, the array of sacrifices involving animals is discussed, before detailing specific funerary rituals involving animals, from regions across the Empire, including various sites in Italy and North Africa. Reasons for these ritual procedures and events are presented. Illustrated examples from current archaeological and zooarchaeological fieldwork across the ancient Mediterranean context provide vivid and interesting case studies of Greek and Roman cult in practice.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Kalof, L. (ed.) (2009), A Cultural History of Animals in Antiquity (vol.1: Antiquity to the Dark Ages). Oxford, Berg.

MacKinnon, M. (2004), ‘Sick as a Dog: Zooarchaeological Evidence for Pet Dog Health and Welfare in the Roman World.’ World Archaeology 42(2): 290-309.

MacKinnon, M. (2007), ‘State of the Discipline: Osteological Research in Classical Archaeology.’ American Journal of Archaeology 111: 473-504.

Toynbee, J. M. C. (1973), Animals in Roman Life and Art. London: Thames and Hudson.

Ekroth, G. (2007) ‘Meat in Ancient Greece: Sacrificial, Sacred or Secular?’, Food and history 5:1: 249-72.

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