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The Power of Ritual in Prehistory is the first book in nearly a century to deal with traditional secret societies from a comparative perspective and the first from an archaeological viewpoint. Providing a clear definition, as well as the material signatures, of ethnographic secret societies, Brian Hayden demonstrates how they worked, what motivated their organizers, and what tactics they used to obtain what they wanted. He shows that far from working for the welfare of their communities, traditional secret societies emerged as predatory organizations operated for the benefit of their own members. Moreover, and contrary to the prevailing ideas that prehistoric rituals were used to integrate communities, Hayden demonstrates how traditional secret societies created divisiveness and inequalities. They were one of the key tools for increasing political control leading to chiefdoms, states, and world religions. Hayden's conclusions will be eye-opening, not only for archaeologists, but also for anthropologists, political scientists, and scholars of religion.Read more
- Proposes a new view of ritual and religion
- Summarizes the material aspects of secret societies in each chapter and gives examples of archaeological applications to prehistoric sites in one of the final chapters
- Offers general discussions followed by full documentation of the characteristics of secret societies organized by specific topics
Reviews & endorsements
‘This is a strong book and a fascinating account of practices … It gives us clear examples of secret societies in a variety of cultures and helps us get an appreciation for how they might have functioned in the past as well as how this undermines perceived notions of the role of religion in ancient societies.’ Joanne M.A. Murphy, American Journal of Archaeology
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- Date Published: November 2020
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781108445108
- length: 410 pages
- dimensions: 254 x 178 x 21 mm
- weight: 0.712kg
- contains: 64 b/w illus. 4 maps
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. The secret
Part I. The New World:
2. The complex hunter/gatherers of the American Northwest
4. The American Southwest and Mesoamerica
5. Plains secret societies
6. The Eastern woodlands and others
Part II. The Old World:
8. Chiefdoms in Central Africa
9. West Africa
Part III. Implications For Prehistory:
10. Archaeological applications
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