Joy McCorriston (Anthropology), "Inter-Cultural Pilgrimage and Identity in the Axial Age"

November 2, 2015
Wednesday, November 18, 2015 - 7:00pm
180 Hagerty Hall
Center for the Study of Religion Community Lecture Series

Professor Joy McCorriston of the Department of Anthropology will deliver the third talk in the 2015-2016 "Religions of the World: Past and Present" Community Lecture series. Her lecture, like all others in the Center for the Study of Religion-sponsored series, is free and open to all. There will be a brief question-and-answer session and a reception following the lecture.


Abstract: The ancient Near East of the Bronze and Iron Ages was arguably formative to the emergence of great pilgrimage traditions in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Major pilgrimage in Islam and in Christianity unites believers from culturally different origins who travel episodically from their home communities to holy sites, including Mecca and Jerusalem. How did pilgrimage, once the binding performance of social insiders, come to be something that multiple groups could perform together? One of the defining characteristics of a so-called Axial Age between 800-200 BC is the independent emergence of new religious ideas considered foundational to humanism. While an individual’s ideas can be transformative, they are generally invisible archaeologically and in prehistory. The archaeological record of community agency offers appropriate data to examine the premise of a transformation of pilgrimage practices in the ancient Near East during the Axial Age, when many people were illiterate, non-literate, or unable to represent themselves and their ideas through writing. The territorial integrities of Axial Age/Iron Age states included multi-cultural, multi-ethnic communities struggling to accommodate different social and cultural frameworks in common terrain. This presentation reviews archaeological evidence to contextualize the development of pilgrimage in ancient Israel within the broader ancient Near East.


For the full list of speakers in the 2015-2016 Community Lectures on Religion series, please click here.

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