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A ROMAN TEMPLE FROM SOUTHERN BRITAIN: RELIGIOUS PRACTICE IN LANDSCAPE CONTEXTS

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2020

Richard Henry
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, Kings Manor, YorkYO1 7EP, UK. Email: Richard.Henry@york.ac.uk
David Roberts
Affiliation:
Historic England, Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth PO4 9LD, UK. Email: david.roberts@historicengland.org.uk
Steve Roskams
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, Kings Manor, YorkYO1 7EP, UK. Email: steve.roskams@york.ac.uk

Abstract

Traditionally, Roman temples and shrines in Britain have been contextualised in relation to wider ‘Roman’ religious practices. Until recently, considerations of architectural form and named deities have dominated discussions. The wider turn in archaeological discourse recognising ritual in everyday contexts has highlighted the importance of lived experience and landscape practice in shaping belief. Here we reflect on the implications of such ideas when approaching ritual practice at Roman temples, using a recently excavated example from Wiltshire, southern Britain, as a case study. The exceptional artefactual assemblages from the site demonstrate the importance of local and regional landscape practices and belief in shaping ritual practice in a sacred space. In addition, geophysical survey and analysis of Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) finds suggests that those occupying the landscape had long-term access to wealth. Deposition in the temple itself indicates the continuing importance attached to prehistoric objects in the Roman period, but also to the adoption of new votive practices of miniaturisation, mutilation and sacrifice. These rituals, although part of wider grammars of religious behaviour, had their roots in specific local contexts. Our detailed analyses provide a picture of a temple dedicated to a previously unknown local god, Bregneus, framed against that of an active community involved in farming, iron processing, quarrying, hunting and woodland management.

Type
Research paper
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Society of Antiquaries of London

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