Seal on Land, Elk at Sea: Notes on and Applications of the Ritual Landscape at the Seaboard

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Abstract

Ritual landscapes at sea are marked in the cognitive world of coastal people by a primary antagonism between sea and land. This contrast is negotiated by liminal ‘foreign’ agents, selected for their symbolic adherence to either part. The primary source of maritime culture is fishing as a survival of past hunter-gatherer societies. Forms of religious or magical management of this contrast are manifold, from recent superstitious magic to powerful symbols in ancient worship, objects, art, architecture and cult. Also described are ways of using the sea on land as a magic metaphor and a fundamental point of reference. Related dichotomies and ways of negotiating them, such as the liminal agent, exist elsewhere in the cognitive world of pre-industrial societies, so these ideas could have applications in archaeology.

© 2005 The Nautical Archaeology Society

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