Universiteit Leiden

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Before Temples⁠

A study on the utilisation of Iron Age rectangular structures and related depositional practices in the Low Countries

R. de Leeuwe
31 May 2023
The publication in Open Access

Before the introduction of Roman temples in the Low Countries, there used to be ‘open air cult places’ in the Iron Age⁠. That is at least the assumption based on descriptions given by classical writers and several archetypical sanctuaries that were excavated in France⁠. However, the rectangular structures regularly encountered in Belgium and the Netherlands that are so often interpreted by archaeologists as cult places are not comparable to the French examples⁠. The evidence these structures deliver does not testify to long usage, modifications, disarticulated human remains, animal bones or Iron Age weaponry that is to be expected of such a place⁠. Rather, short term utilisation, pottery depositions and a vaguely defined relation to cremation graves typify the rectangular structures⁠. These finds and features could fit in the ancestral worship belief system, although what does that actually entail? How did Iron Age people actually conceptualise or practice interaction with ancestral spirits? In this thesis the use of rectangular structures during the Iron Age is explored and the meaning of related depositions interpreted⁠. The structures fulfilled a special sociocultural position in Iron Age society, emphasised by the deliberately chosen liminal location in an increasingly structured landscape⁠.

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