AIA Lecture | Human-Animal-Divine Relationships in Cyprus: A Social Zooarchaeology of Sacrifice

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Campbell Hall 160
Archaeological Institute of America

Kathryn Grossman
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
North Carolina State University

In recent years, archaeologists have shifted their attention away from animals as passive participants in their own fate, and focused instead on animals as constitutive members of multispecies societies. The intertwined lives of humans, animals, things, and divinities come together dramatically in the case of religious sacrifice, where boundaries between worlds are broken down and rebuilt through ritual, death, and consumption. In a new project undertaken in collaboration with Erin Averett (Creighton Univ.) and David Reese (Yale), we consider the fates of people and animals as together they practice religious sacrifice in Cyprus in the Late Bronze and Iron Age. Cypriot religious and ritual iconography is rife with animal imagery, in votive offerings, depictions of deities, and zoomorphic masks, suggesting a broad role for animals in Cypriot religious life. This project considers animal remains from sanctuaries across Cyprus, along with art historical and archaeological evidence, and highlights the ways in which animals contributed to world-building (through the negotiation of earthly, liminal, and divine realms) and knowledge-creation (through prognostication and divination).