By Justyna Baron
Rytm przemian kulturowych w pradziejach i średniowieczu, eds. B. Gediga, A. Grossman, W. Piotrowski (Biskupin-Wrocław, 2012)
Introduction: In archaeology, the achievements of contemporary religion studies or cultural anthropology have been perceived in a very cautious way. This has led to many problems which persist despite several detailed studies on the subject also in Central European archaeology. The question of the proper selection and verification of the pieces of evidence used to study prehistoric religions has been extensively discussed. This discussion has mainly taken place in the context of the simplified attribution of some ‘cultic’ properties to artefacts of unknown or ambiguous functions. Such division derives from the discrete (i.e. only usable or only cultic) properties of any analysed item or structure and thus reflects a clear division between the sacred and mundane realms. The weak points of archaeological research into religious phenomena based on artefact studies were pointed out by A. Posern-Zieliński. These weak points include the following: interpretative schematism, a priori classification of finds according to their usable/unusable functions, invalidated comparisons, lack of methodological discipline, interpretative conservatism and the isolationism which separates archaeology from the current achievements of many important humanities. That has resulted both in a dual vision of life in prehistoric and early historic societies and in the archaeology of religion and ritual being treated in an extremely cautious way which leaves such studies behind the main research interests.
The last two decades have however demonstrated an increased interest of archaeologists in ritual and religion studies, what has resulted in the rejection of a division of the sacred and profane areas of human activity and bringing ritual, (viewed as integral to domesticity), into daily life including, for example, such aspects as storage patterns, diet, refuse management or technology.