Sacrifice or Offering: What Can We See in the Archaeology of Northern Europe?

Ester Oras
2013 Folklore  
This article analyses the concepts of sacrifice and offering, with a further aim to discuss how to decode and differentiate these practices in archaeological material. The main criteria for distinguishing sacrifice and offering from anthropology and comparative religious studies are presented. The focal points are the relationship between sacrifice and offering, questions of linguistic preferences, and qualitative criteria such as concepts of value, destruction and sanctification. The problems
more » ... f making a distinction between the two concepts are discussed on the basis of the archaeological record of intentional artefact deposits in northern Europe, especially Estonia. As a result, it is argued that there can be no universal and strictly distinguishing definitions for these religious practices. They share a common idea of communication with the supernatural via giving, but any further distinction depends on the specific cultural context of both the practitioners and contemporary scholars investigating the archaeological record. Therefore, any universal definitions that result from trying to distinguish between sacrifice and offering are problematic, and they should be seen rather as scholarly categories, which, however, help to acknowledge the multifaceted and variable nature of these religious phenomena. This article stresses the importance of acknowledging the context-dependency of any religious and ritual activity and dismissing a quest for defining and applying concepts related to such activity cross-regionally and -temporally.
doi:10.7592/fejf2013.55.oras fatcat:qabgqmgmurgl7k4nukuz6lieby