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The Real and the Imaginary: Greek Religion and Archaeology (Craven Seminar 2009)

Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge

2–4 July 2009

There has been an explosion of work on Greek religion in the past two decades, and aspects of Greek religion are continually the subject of further conferences. Notwithstanding these signs of health, however, current work on Greek religion suffers from an over narrow approach to what counts as evidence and how that evidence is to be integrated into the study of ancient Greek religion.

The reason for this is, in part at least, a fundamental lack of communication between classical archaeology and students of ancient Greek religion. The way in which classical archaeologists present their findings is frequently unable to answer the kind of questions ancient historians tend to ask about Greek religion. At the same time, ancient historians still use the material evidence as mere illustrations of aspects of Greek religion derived from the study of the literary evidence. The genuine exchange between both disciplines on a conceptual level is all the more desirable as they can act both as a complementary extension of and as a check upon each other.

The aim of this conference is to get together archaeologists and historians to think more seriously about what both disciplines have to offer to each other for the study of ancient Greek religion. A particular focus will be on the ways in which material circumstances and material objects both constituted an important manifestation of Greek religious experience, grounding the real in the imaginary and vice versa. The conference takes its title from Richard Gordon’s classic paper and is offered in his honour.

The conference will involve papers by scholars, many of them relatively young, who in various ways are concerned with theoretical approaches to Greek religion or deploy material evidence to better our understanding of religious activities. It will devote two sessions to workshops in one of which the problems and possibilities of using material evidence will be explored in relation to a single well-excavated cult site, and in the other the possibilities and limits to the use of ThesCRA will be discussed. Established scholars from both sides of the history: archaeology divide will be invited to ensure that the discussion is fully informed by their knowledge.

Thursday 2nd

10.45 coffee

11.00 Julia Kindt: Introduction: problems of theory and method

2.15 Michael Scott: Religion in the Sanctuary: how did the buildings and monuments of a sanctuary work?

3.45 tea

4.15 Michael Squire: Cult and statues: the real and the imaginary revisited

5.45 Catherine Morgan: Why did early Greeks build temples?

Friday 3rd

9.00: Matt Carbon: Inscriptions and religious experience: from bureaucracy to feast

10.30 Coffee

11.00 Workshop session: what are we to do with ThesCRA? (led by Richard Gordon). Please read in advance ThesCRA vol. 1, 2.d, pp.269-326; vol. 4 pp.1-127 and 363-408).

2.15–4.30 Workshop session: what are we to make of Perachora (led by Robin Osborne).

4.30 tea

5.00–6.30 Sarah Iles Johnston: The archaeology of Dionysos

Saturday 4th

9.00 James Davidson: Time and space: images and archaeology

10.30 coffee

10.45 Fritz Graf: Archaeological change and historical continuity?

12.30 Plenary discussion

The conference is open free of charge to all members of the University of Cambridge. A limited number of places are available to participants from outside Cambridge, for whom there will be a conference fee.

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