Dynamic Spirituality on Minoan Peak Sanctuaries

  • Alan A. D. Peatfield
  • Christine Morris
Part of the One World Archaeology book series (WORLDARCH)


Previous work by the authors has argued for a shamanic element to Cretan Bronze Age religion. Late Minoan gold rings with engraved ritual scenes show clear affinities with imagery expressive of ecstatic religious experience in other ancient and traditional societies. We interpret the clay figurines from Minoan peak sanctuaries as similarly expressive of the participants’ spiritual experience, whereby the body was a medium to access altered states. The authors’ excavation of the western Cretan peak sanctuary of Atsipadhes Korakies is presented as a case study. Our work has been firmly located within current archaeological interest in the body, and in experiential and experimental methodologies. We also argue for the importance of a fully sensory archaeology, which engages with the dynamics of ritual and spirituality on these mountain shrines. In this chapter we explicitly address the issues raised by our own encounters and experimentation with shamanic practices in a Cretan context, particularly the apparent tension between objective and subjective analysis, and how that may be resolved.


Altered State Spiritual Experience Lower Terrace Ritual Action Open Gesture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Atkinson, J. M. (1992). Shamanisms today. Annual Review of Anthropology, 21, 307–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bertman, S. (2003). Handbook to life in ancient Mesopotamia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. D’Aquili, E. G., & Newberg, A. (1999). The mystical mind: Probing the biology of religious experience. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.Google Scholar
  4. Evans, A. J. (1921). Palace of Minos at Knossos (Vol. 1). London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  5. Evans, A. J. (1930). The palace of Minos at Knossos (Vol. 3). London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  6. Goodman, F. D. (1986). Body posture and the religious altered states of consciousness: An experimental investigation. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 26, 98–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Goodman, F. D. (1988). Ecstasy, ritual, and alternate reality: Religion in a pluralistic world. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Hamilakis, Y., & Momigliano, N. (Eds.) (2006). Archaeology and European modernity: Producing and consuming the ‘Minoans’ (Creta Antica, Vol. 7). Padova: Bottega d’Erasmo.Google Scholar
  9. Howes, D. (Ed.). (1991). Varieties of sensory experience: A sourcebook in the anthropology of the senses. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  10. Howes, D. (Ed.). (2005). Empire of the senses: The sensual culture reader. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  11. Karetsou, A. (1980). The peak sanctuary of Mt. Juktas. In R. Hägg & N. Marinatos (Eds.), Sanctuaries and cults of the Aegean Bronze Age. Proceedings of the first international symposium at the Swedish Institute in Athens (pp. 137–153), May 12–13 1980, Stockholm.Google Scholar
  12. Karetsou, A. Forthcoming. Popular cult and power. The function of the Juktas peak sanctuary in the Protopalatial and Neopalatial period. In A. A. D. Peatfield, C. E. Morris, & A. Karetsou (Eds.), Minoan peak sanctuaries: Researches and interpretations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Keane, W. (2008). The evidence of the senses and the materiality of religion. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 14(1), S110–S127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kehoe, A. B. (2000). Shamans and religion: An anthropological exploration in critical thinking. London: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
  15. Kingsley, P. (1999). In the dark places of wisdom. Shaftesbury: Element.Google Scholar
  16. Kingsley, P. (2004). Reality. Inverness: Golden Sufi Centre.Google Scholar
  17. Kingsley, P. (2010). A story waiting to pierce you: Mongolia, Tibet and the destiny of the western world. Inverness: Golden Sufi Centre.Google Scholar
  18. Megarry, W. (2012). Experiencing the mountain in Minoan Crete: Exploring the evolution of a Bronze Age sacred landscape using GIS. Ph.D. thesis, University College Dublin.Google Scholar
  19. Moody, J., Peatfield, A., & Markoulaki, S. (2000). The Ayios Vasilios valley archaeological survey: A preliminary report. Proceedings of the eighth international Cretological congress (pp. 359–646), September 1996, Heraklion.Google Scholar
  20. Morris, C. E. (2001). The language of gesture in Minoan religion. In R. Laffineur & R. Hägg (Eds.), POTNIA: Deities and religion in the Aegean Bronze Age (Aegaeum, Vol. 22, pp. 245–251). Liège: Université de Liège.Google Scholar
  21. Morris, C. E. (2004). ‘Art makes visible’: An archaeology of the senses in Minoan élite art. In N. Brodie & C. Hills (Eds.), Material engagements: Studies in honour of Colin Renfrew (pp. 31–43). Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs.Google Scholar
  22. Morris, C. E. (2010). Thoroughly modern Minoans: Women and goddesses between Europe and the Orient. In L. H. Dommasnes, T. Hjørungdal, S. Montón-Subías, M. S. Romero, & N. L. Wicker (Eds.), Situating gender in European archaeologies (pp. 83–92). Budapest: Archaeolingua.Google Scholar
  23. Morris, C., & Peatfield, A. (2002). Feeling through the body: Gesture in Cretan Bronze Age religion. In Y. Hamilakis, M. Pluciennik, & S. Tarlow (Eds.), Thinking through the body: Archaeologies of corporeality (pp. 105–120). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.Google Scholar
  24. Morris, C., & Peatfield, A. (2004). Experiencing ritual: Shamanic elements in Minoan religion. In M. Wedde (Ed.), Celebrations. Sanctuaries and the vestiges of cult activity (pp. 35–59). Papers from the Norwegian Institute at Athens 6, The Norwegian Institute at Athens, Bergen.Google Scholar
  25. Morris, C. E., & Peatfield, A. A. D. (2012). Health and healing on Cretan Bronze Age peak sanctuaries. In D. Michaelides (Ed.), Medicine in the ancient Mediterranean world. Oxford: Oxbow Books.Google Scholar
  26. Myres, J. L. (1902–1903). Excavations at Palaikastro II. The sanctuary site at Petsofa. Annual of the British School at Athens, 9, 356–387.Google Scholar
  27. Newberg, A. (2010). The principles of neurotheology. Farmham: Ashgate Books.Google Scholar
  28. Newberg, A., D’Aquili, E., & Rause, V. (2002). Why God won’t go away: Brain science and the biology of belief. New York: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar
  29. Nowicki, K. (1991). Some remarks on the distribution of peak sanctuaries in Middle Minoan Crete. Archaeologia, 42, 143–145.Google Scholar
  30. Nowicki, K. (1994). Some remarks on the Pre- and Protopalatial peak sanctuaries in Crete. Aegean Archaeology, 1, 31–48.Google Scholar
  31. Nowicki, K. (2007). Some remarks on new peak sanctuaries in Crete: The topography of ritual areas and their relationship with settlements. Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, 122, 1–31.Google Scholar
  32. Peatfield, A. A. D. (1983). The topography of Minoan peak sanctuaries. Annual of the British School at Athens, 78, 273–280.Google Scholar
  33. Peatfield, A. A. D. (1987). Palace and peak: The political and religious relationship between palaces and peak sanctuaries. In R. Hägg & N. Marinatos (Eds.), The function of the Minoan palaces: Proceedings of the fourth international symposium at the Swedish Institute in Athens (pp. 89–93), June 10–16 1984, Stockholm: Swedish Institute in Athens  /  Svenska Institutet I Athen.Google Scholar
  34. Peatfield, A. A. D. (1990). Minoan peak sanctuaries: History and society. Opuscula Atheniensa, 18, 117–132.Google Scholar
  35. Peatfield, A. A. D. (1992). Rural ritual in Bronze Age Crete: The peak sanctuary at Atsipadhes. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 2, 59–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Peatfield, A. A. D. (2001). Divinity and performance on Minoan peak sanctuaries. In R. Laffineur & R. Hägg (Eds.), POTNIA: Deities and Religion in the Aegean Bronze Age (pp. 51–55). Aegaeum 22. Liège: Université de Liège.Google Scholar
  37. Peatfield, A. A. D. (2007). The dynamics of ritual on Minoan peak sanctuaries. In D. A. Barrowclough & C. Malone (Eds.), Cult in context: Reconsidering ritual archaeology (pp. 297–300). Oxford: Oxbow Books.Google Scholar
  38. Peatfield, A. A. D. (2009). The topography of Minoan peak sanctuaries revisited. In A. L. D’Agata & A. Van De Moortel (Eds.), Archaeologies of cult. Essays on ritual and cult in Crete in honour of Geraldine C. Gesell (Hesperia Supplement, Vol. 42, pp. 251–260). Princeton: American School of Classical Studies.Google Scholar
  39. Peatfield, A. A. D., & Megarry, W. (2008). Mountains and pilgrimages in the Minoan Bronze Age. Paper delivered at World Archaeology Congress 6, Dublin, June 2008.Google Scholar
  40. Peatfield, A. A. D., Morris C. E., & Karetsou, A., ( Eds.). Forthcoming. Minoan peak sanctuaries: Researches and interpretations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Psilakis, N. (2005). Laikes Teletourgies stin Kriti [Folk Ceremonies in Crete]. Karmanor Publications: Heraklion, Crete.Google Scholar
  42. Renfrew, C. (1985). The archaeology of cult: The sanctuary at Phylakopi (Vol. Suppl. 18). London: British School at Athens.Google Scholar
  43. Rutkowski, B. (1972). Cult Places in the Aegean world (Bibliotheca Antiqua, Vol. 10). Wroclaw: Zakad Narodowy.Google Scholar
  44. Rutkowski, B. (1986). The cult places of the Aegean. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Seremetakis, N. C. (Ed.). (1994). The senses still: Memory and perception as material culture in modernity. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  46. Soetens, S. (2006). Minoan peak sanctuaries: Building a cultural landscape using GIS. Ph.D. thesis, University of Louvain-la-Neuve.Google Scholar
  47. Soetens, S. (2009). Juktas and Kophinas. Two ritual landscapes out of the ordinary. In A. L. D’Agata & A. Van de Moortel (Eds.), Archaeologies of cult. Essays on ritual and cult in honour of Geraldine C. Gesell (Hesperia Supplementary, Vol. 42, pp. 261–268). Princeton: American School of Classical Studies.Google Scholar
  48. Spiro, M. E. (1966). Religion: Problems of definition and explanation. In M. Banton (Ed.), Anthropological approaches to the study of religion (ASA Monographs, Vol. 3, pp. 85–126). London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  49. Stoller, P. (1989). The taste of ethnographic things: The senses in anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  50. Tambiah, S. J. (1985). A performative approach to ritual. In S. J. Tambiah (Ed.), Culture, thought and social action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Toren, C. (1993). Sign into symbol, symbol as sign: Cognitive aspects of a social process. In P. Boyer (Ed.), Cognitive aspects of religious symbolism (pp. 147–164). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. VanPool, C. S. (2009). The signs of the sacred: Identifying shamans using archaeological evidence. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 28, 177–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Warren, P. (1969). Minoan stone vases. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ArchaeologyUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  2. 2.Department of Classics, School of Histories and HumanitiesTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

Personalised recommendations