Domestic Religion in the Southern Levant: A Material Religion Approach
Keywords:Israelite religion, Israelite house, material religion, sensescape, smellscape, meal
The present study examines how a material religion approach might be applied meaningfully to the study of domestic religion in the southern Levant. Despite the abundant material evidence from the archaeological record, locating religion in the house continues to pose certain challenges, in terms of both definition and visibility. We see in past studies that much of the larger effort of studying the material culture rests in attempts to explain how materials reflect religious belief or to determine functional meanings. This is particularly the case in the study of those remains from domestic contexts, which are often interpreted as a way to understand how the beliefs and practices of non-official religion differed from that of the picture of belief in the textual evidence. A material religions approach, however, challenges this tendency by arguing that materials should not be interpreted primarily as reflections or expressions of beliefs or ideas. For this reason, the present study gives priority of focus to the many things of religion that have been uncovered in domestic spaces and spaces connected to the lifecycle of the household. This approach also challenges a picture of domestic religion that overemphasizes the walls as boundaries of the house since an emphasis upon food, drink, incense, etc. points to the house’s relationship with and the household’s dependence upon the family field, the natural landscape, and larger networks of sustenance and exchange.
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