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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

Chapter 9, the chapter on the Religious Landscape, highlights the “enduring” quality of religion and its continuous imprint on the landscape. Within this chapter, there is a pervasive focus on religion as a “given” of the local environment, the land as part of a cultural religious history, the influence and importance of a pre-existing religious landscape. While there are references to early Turkish and Byzantine Churches, I am wondering if the religiously significant landscape can be traced back further. As intimated at in the beginning of Chapter 8 with the discussion of ancient Greek views of kinship, the ancient Greek past must necessarily come into play when studying the modern Greek culture. The chapter may explicitly examine the meaning of the religious landscape for “modern” Methanites, but the question of what preceded these modern sacred sites cannot be avoided; tracing the origins of these sacred spaces back to antiquity would only add more strength to the argument of this chapter.

The idea of context-specific meanings of landscapes permeates the entire book (178). Not only are the meanings of a landscape not fixed, but the time, human interaction, structures and relationships connected with that very landscape remain flexible and changing. But if meanings are context specific, how does one unpack and preserve the ancestral, revered meanings of landscape? How does one memorialize specific, ancient meanings? Throughout the book, there is frequent discussion about memorialization and monumentalization, but how can one really materialize a meaning? Perhaps these questions stem more from an archaeological bias than from an ethnographic point of view; but even if landscape can be read as a text, and features within that landscape can be read as “ideograms” (205), what are the ancient material imprints of meaning? This also spurs the question of translation and redescription: when we assign meaning to a place through local, oral histories, are we not anachronistically placing those particular meanings onto an ancient landscape we cannot access?