Session: #657

Theme & Session Format

The archaeology of material culture, bodies and landscapes
Session format:
Session, made up of a combination of papers, max. 15 minutes each

Title & Content

Boundaries and Regions in Iron Age (Celtic) and Romano-Celtic Religions
Boundaries are important in ancient religions. Sacred landscapes marked boundaries between communities, while religious ceremonies created the boundaries in towns and cult places. This is well-studied for the Greek world, but for the Iron Age and Roman Europe is still comparatively ill-understood. The aim of this session is to gain a better understanding of the nature of religious boundaries as seen in archaeological contexts from across Europe.
It seems that there is a much wider range of religious boundaries in Roman times. For example, new Roman-style temples would challenge pre-existing understanding of religious space in the community. While Iron Age sanctuaries continued with pre-Roman forms of boundaries (e.g. ditch and palisade), other cult places demonstrate innovation, like the natural springs that became monumentalised. Pre-Roman features were frequently appropriated as sacred boundaries, e.g. Iron Age ramparts for new Roman sanctuaries on hilltop sites, e.g. Le Castellar, Provence. We also need to study temporarily sacred spaces, often created for a seasonal/annual event, and how they were demarcated in the landscape.
The session also explores broader concepts, like the boundaries between ‘religions’ (local/native deities, Graeco-Roman deities) – that become very permeable in the 1st–3rd century AD. Traditional ‘polis religion’ seems to have reduced as a result: reducing further in the 3rd-4th century when greater individualism in religious identities, especially amongst elites, sees increasing focus on personal, not public spaces. Data distribution patterns allow us to study changing religious boundaries within Iron Age and Roman Europe, and their relationship to regional identities.
Iron Age; Roman; religion; landscapes
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
Session associated with SAfA:


Main organiser:
Mr Anthony King (United Kingdom) 1
Dr Ralph Haeussler (United Kingdom) 2
Prof Wolfgang Spickermann (Austria) 3
1. Professor of Roman Archaeology, University of Winchester, UK
2. Senior Lecturer in Roman History and Archaeology, University of Wales Trinity Saint David
3. Universitätsprofessor für Alte Geschichte, Institut für Alte Geschichte und Altertumswissenschaften, Universitat Graz