The Medieval Ritual Landscape: Archaeology and Folk Religion

The Medieval Ritual Landscape: Archaeology and Folk Religion

Lecture by Roberta Gilchrist

Given at the University of Cambridge on November 7, 2018

This lecture explores the value of archaeology in reconstructing lived religion as it was practised and experienced by medieval people. Archaeological sources of evidence reveal ritual practices that were never documented in historical texts: archaeology demonstrates how ordinary people expressed their religious agency as part of everyday life, independent of the clergy and institutional religion.

The main source material is archaeological evidence for the deliberate deposition of objects in the landscape, in water and in medieval settlements, as part of Christian rituals. Until recently, these practices were not recognised or were dismissed as superstitious behaviour or echoes of pagan survivals.

Roberta Gilchrist FBA (DPhil York 1991) is Professor of Medieval Archaeology and Research Dean at the University of Reading. She was a pioneer of both gender and life course studies in archaeology, publishing Gender and Material Culture: the Archaeology of Religious Women (1994) and Medieval Life: Archaeology and the Life Course (2012).

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