Feeling Through the Body

Gesture in Cretan Bronze Age Religion
  • Christine Morris
  • Alan Peatfield


The origins of this paper lay in an archaeological problem: the understanding of the variety of gestures of clay figurines we had excavated from a mountain peak sanctuary of the Cretan Bronze Age. As we discuss in greater detail below, such figurines from other peak sanctuaries, portraying the worshippers at the sanctuary, have been usually interpreted as representing gestures of worship, adoration, and supplication. While understandable within the conventions of applying familiar western religious norms to the reading of ancient religion, such an interpretation seemed to undervalue the essential physicality of the figurine gestures. Moreover the sanctuary findspot placed the physicality of the gestures firmly within the context of ritual action, the understanding of which has benefitted enormously from contemporary anthropological and archaeological interest in the body.


Altered State Mystical Experience Ritual Action Ritual Behaviour Trance State 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Csordas, T. (1999) ‘Embodiment and cultural phenomenology’, in G. Weiss and H. F. Haber (eds) Perspectives on Embodiment: The Intersections of Nature and Culture, pp. 143-62, Routledge: New York and London.Google Scholar
  2. de Boeck, F. (1994) “When hunger goes around the land’: hunger and food among the aLuund of Zaire’, Man 29(2): 257-82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Edmonds, M. (1999) Ancestral Geographies of the Neolithic: Landscapes, Monuments and Memory, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Johnson, M. (1999) ‘Embodied Reason’ in G. Weiss and H. F. Haber (eds) Perspectives on Embodiment: The Intersections of Nature and Culture, pp. 81-102, Routledge: New York and London.Google Scholar
  5. Asad, T. (1997) ‘Remarks on the anthropology of the body’, in S. Coakley (ed), Religion andthe Body, pp 42–52, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Atkinson, J.M. (1992) ‘Shamanisms today’, Annual Review of Anthropology 21: 307–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bourguignon, E. (1973) Religion, Altered States of Consciousness and Social Change, Columbus: Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bourguignon, E.(1979) Psychological Anthropology.An Introduction to Human Nature and CulturalDifferences, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
  9. Cameron, M.A.S. (1978) ‘Theoretical interrelations among Theran’, Cretan and mainland frescoes, in Thera and the Aegean World I, pp 579–92, London: Thera Foundation.Google Scholar
  10. Cameron, M.A.S.(1987) ,The palatial thematic system in the Knossos murals’, in R. Hgg and N. Marinatos (eds), Function of the Minoan Palaces, pp. 320–8, Stockholm: Swedish Institute at Athens.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, K.S. (1997) The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing, New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  12. Despeux, C. (1989) Gymnastics: the ancient tradition, in L. Kohn (ed.), Taoist Meditationand Longevity Techniques, pp. 225–62, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  13. Eliade, M. (1964) Shamanism.Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Evans, A.J. (1901) The Mycenaean tree and pillar cult and its Mediterranean relations’ Journal of Hellenic Studies 21: 99–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Evans, A.J.(1921–36) The Palace of Minos at Knossos, I-IV, London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  16. Frantzis, B.K. (1993) Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body, Berkeley: Clarity Press.Google Scholar
  17. Furst, P. (ed) (1972) Flesh of the Gods. The Ritual Use of Hallucinogens, London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  18. Graham, A.C. (1981) Chuang-tzu.The Inner Chapters. London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  19. Goodman, F.D. (1986) Body posture and the religious altered states of consciousness: an experimental investigation, Journal of Humanistic Psychology 26(3): 81–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goodman, F.D.(1990) Where the Spirits Ride the Wind.Trance Journeys and Other EcstaticExperiences, Bloomington: Indiana University PressGoogle Scholar
  21. Hgg, R. (1985) Pictorial Programmes in Minoan Palaces and Villas, in P. Darcque and J-C. Poursat (eds), Liconographie minoenne (BCH Supplement 11), pp. 209–17, Paris: French School at Athens.Google Scholar
  22. Hgg, R.(1986) Die gttliche Epiphanie im minoischen Ritual, Athenische Mitteilungen 101: 41–62.Google Scholar
  23. Halifax, J. (1982) Shaman. The Wounded Healer, London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  24. Harner, M.J. (1990) The Way of the Shaman. A Guide to Power and Healing (3rd edn), San Francisco: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  25. Harner, M.J.(ed) (1973) Hallucinogens and Shamanism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hitchcock, L. (1993) Engendering domination: a structural and contextual analysis of Minoan Neopalatial bronze figurines, in J. Moore and E. Scott (eds), InvisiblePeople and Processes, pp. 113–30, London: Leicester University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Horton, R. (1994) Patterns of Thought in Africa and the West, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Johnson, M. (1987) The Body in the Mind, Chicago: Chicago University PressGoogle Scholar
  29. Kaptchuk, T. (1983) Chinese Medicine: The Web that has no Weaver, London: Rider.Google Scholar
  30. Lang, B. (1997) A History of Christian Worship, New Haven and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Lewis, I.M. (1989) Ecstatic Religion. A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Lex, B. (1979) The neurobiology of ritual trance, in E. dAquili (ed), The Spectrum ofRitual. A Biogenetic Structural Analysis, New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Maspero, H. (1981) Taoism and Chinese Religion, Amherst: University of Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  34. Marinatos, N. (1984) Art and Religion in Thera, Athens: Mathioudakis.Google Scholar
  35. Marinatos, N.(1993) Minoan Religion, Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  36. Mauss, M. (1979)[1935] Body techniques, in Sociology and Psychology. Essays by MarcelMauss (trans. B. Brewster), London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Miura, K. (1989) The revival of Qi: Qigong in contemporary Chir ., in L. Kohn (ed), TaoistMeditation and Longevity Techniques, pp. 331–62, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  38. Morris, C.E. (1993) Hands up for the individual: The role of attribution studies in Aegean prehistory, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 3: 41–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. and V. Batten (in press) The Final Neolithic pottery from the Atsipadhes peak sanctuary, in Proceedings of the 8th International Cretological Congress, Iraklio 1996.Google Scholar
  40. and A.A.D. Peatfield (1996) The pottery of the peak sanctuary of Atsipadhes Korakias, in Proceedings of the 7th International Cretological Congress, Rethymnon 1991, pp. 643–47, Rethymnon: Dimos Rethymnis/ Historiki kai Laographiki Etaireia Rethymnis.Google Scholar
  41. Morris, C.E. and Peatfield, A.A.D ( forthcoming) Experiencing Ritual, in Celebrations,anthropological and archaeological approaches to ancient Greek ritual NorwegianInstitute in Athens, 10th anniversary conference. May 1999Google Scholar
  42. Myres, J.L. (1902–3) Excavations at Palaikastro II. The sanctuary-site of Petsofa, Annual ofthe British School at Athens 9: 356–87.Google Scholar
  43. Needham, J. (1983) Science and Civilisation in China vol. 5.5. Spagyrical Discovery andInvention: Physiological Alchemy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Niemeier, W.-D. (1989) Zur Ikonographie von Gottheiten und Adoranten in den Kultzenen auf minoischen und mykensichen Siegeln, Fragen und Probleme derbronzezeitlichengischen Glyptik.Corpus der minoischen und mykensichenSiegeln, pp. 163–89, Berlin: Mann.Google Scholar
  45. Nilsson, M.P. (1950) The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and its Survival in Greek Religion, Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup.Google Scholar
  46. Paper, J. (1995) The Spirits Are Drunk: Comparative Approaches to Chinese Religion, Albany, NY: SUNY.Google Scholar
  47. Peatfield, A.A.D. (1983) The topography of Minoan peak sanctuaries, Annual of the BritishSchool at Athens 78: 273–9.Google Scholar
  48. Peatfield, A.A.D.(1987) Palace and peak: the political and religious relationship between palaces and peak sanctuaries, in R. Hgg and N. Marinatos (eds), Function of the MinoanPalaces, pp. 89–93, Stockholm: Swedish Institute at Athens.Google Scholar
  49. Peatfield, A.A.D.(1990) Minoan peak sanctuaries: history and society, Opuscula Atheniensia 18: 117 31.Google Scholar
  50. Peatfield, A.A.D.(1992) Rural ritual in Bronze Age Crete: the peak sanctuary at Atsipadhes, CambridgeArchaeological Journal 2(1): 59–87.Google Scholar
  51. Peatfield, A.A.D.(1994) After the Big Bang: Minoan shrines and symbols beyond palatial collapse, in S. Alcock and R. Osborne (eds) Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred Space inAncient Greece, pp. 19–36, Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  52. Peatfield, A.A.D.(1995) Water, fertility, and purification in Minoan Religion, in C.E. Morris (ed.), Klados.Essays in honour of J.N. Coldstream, (Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, Supplementary Volume 63), pp. 217–27, London: Institute of Classical Studies.Google Scholar
  53. Robinet, I. (1993) Taoist Meditation [trans. J.F. Pas and N.J. Girardot], Albany: SUNYGoogle Scholar
  54. Robinet, I.(1997) Taoism.Growth of a Religion [trans: P. Brooks], Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Rorry, R. (1979) Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton: Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  56. Roth, H. (1996) The inner cultivation tradition of Early Taoism, in D. Lopez Jnr. (ed.) Religions of China in Practice, pp. 123–48, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Rutkowski, B. (1986) The Cult Places of the Aegean, New Haven: Yale University PressGoogle Scholar
  58. Rutkowski, B.(1991) Petsophas, Warsaw: Institute of Art and Archaeology.Google Scholar
  59. Sapouna-Sakellaraki, E. (1995) Die bronzenen Menschenfiguren auf Kreta und in dergais.Prhistorische Bronzefunde. Band I, 5. Stuttgart: F. Steiner.Google Scholar
  60. Saso, M. (1998) The Taoist body and cosmic prayer, in S. Coakley (ed), Religion and theBody, pp. 231–47, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Schipper, K. (1993) The Taoist Body, Berkeley: University of California.Google Scholar
  62. Stoller, P. (1997) Sensuous Scholarship, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  63. Tambiah, S.J. (1990) Magic, Science, Religion and the Scope of Rationality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Tringham, R. and M. Conkey (1998) Rethinking figurines’, in L. Goodison and C. Morris (eds), Ancient Goddesses.The Myths and the Evidence, pp. 22–45, London: British Museum Press.Google Scholar
  65. Turner, V. (1982) From Ritual to Theatre and Back: The Human Seriousness of Play, New York: PAJ publications.Google Scholar
  66. Turner, V.(1991) The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Verlinden, C. (1984) Les Statuettes Anthropomorphes Crtoises en Bronze et en Plomb, duIIIe Millnaire au VIIe Sicle av. J.C., (Archaeologia Transatlantica IV), Louvain-La-Neuve: Art and Archaeology Publications, College Erasme.Google Scholar
  68. Walsh, R. (1989) Mapping states of consciousness: comparing shamanic, schizophrenic, insight meditation, and yogic states, in R. Heinze (ed.), Proceedings of the FifthInternational Conference on the Study of Shamanism and Alternate Modes ofHealing, 1988, Berkeley: Independent Scholars Asia, Inc. (1990) The Spirit of Shamanism, Los Angeles: Tarcher.Google Scholar
  69. Warren, P.M. (1981) Minoan Crete and ecstatic religion. Preliminary observations on the 1979 excavations at Knossos, in R. Hgg and N. Marinatos (eds), Sanctuaries andCults of the Aegean Bronze Age, pp. 155–66, Stockholm: Swedish Institute at Athens.Google Scholar
  70. (1988) Minoan Religion as Ritual Action, Gteborg: Gteborg University. (1990) Of Baetyls, Opuscula Atheniensia 18: 193–206.Google Scholar
  71. Whitley, D.S. (1992) Shamanism and rock art in far western North America, CambridgeArchaeological Journal 2(1): 89–113.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Morris
  • Alan Peatfield

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations