Into the Darkness: Deep Caves in the Ancient Near East

Open access

Abstract

In this paper I will present the assemblage of pottery vessels and objects of luxury dated to the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods discovered in the Zarda Cave in Western Samaria, Israel. The context in which this assemblage was found is strongly reminiscent of other proto-historic depositions found in Israel. As determent of objects of value found in the deep and dark caves cannot be explained by means of burial offerings or regular hoards one most provide this remarkable phenomenon by a different theory. In this paper, I claim that these depositions were ritual in nature. They bear physical evidence for rituals performed by specially chosen members of the society, which we call today shamans. These caves were chosen due to their physical properties to become scenes for rituals of rites of passage in the course of which they experienced altered states of consciousness. In the course of time these caves have accumulated considerable social power becoming liminal monuments on the fringes of social landscapes in the local cultures. We may understand deep and dark caves as an element of pre-urban cosmology embedded into the local landscape, traces of which can be detected in much later traditions.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Assmann J. (2008). Communicative and Cultural Memory. In Erll A.; Nünning A. (eds.) Cultural Memory Studies. An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook (pp. 109-118) Berlin.

  • Beckman G. (2013). Intrinsic and Constructed Sacred Space in Hittite Anatolia. In Ragavan D. (ed.). Heaven on Earth. Temples Ritual and Cosmic Symbolism in the Ancient World (pp. 153-175) Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

  • Ben-Ami D. (2008). Monolithic Pillars in Canaan: Reconsidering the Date of the High Place at Gezer. Levant 40: 17–28.

  • Bourguignon E. (1973). Religion Altered States of Consciousness and Social Change Columbus Ohio State University Press.

  • Chapman J. (1991). The Creation of Social Arenas in the Neolithic and Copper Age of South East Europe: The Case of Varna In Garwood P.; Jennings P.; Skeates R.; Toms J. (eds.) Sacred and Profane (pp. 152–171). Oxford: Oxbow.

  • Clottes J. and Lewis-Williams D. (1998). The Shamans of Prehistory. Trance and Magic in the Painted Caves. New York: Harry N. Abrams.

  • Cook A. (1925). Zeus. A Study in Ancient Religion. Volume II. Cambridge: University Press.

  • Eliade M. (1951). Shamanism. Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. New York Follingen Foundation.

  • Ellis R. (1968). Foundation Deposits in Ancient Mesopotamia. New Haven: Yale University Press.

  • Garfinkel Y. (2003). Dancing at the Dawn of Agriculture. Austin: University of Texas Press.

  • Garfinkel Y. and Ben-Shlomo D. (2009). Sha’ar Hagolan 2. The Rise of Urban Concepts in the Ancient Near East. Qedem Reports 9. Jerusalem: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Israel Exploration Society.

  • Gopher A and Tsuk T. (1996). The Nahal Qanah Cave. Earliest Gold in the Southern Levant. Tal Aviv: Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology Publications.

  • Hazzidakis J. (1913). An Early Minoan Sacred Cave at Arkalokhori in Crete. Annual of the British School at Athens 19: 35–47.

  • Jones D. (1999). Peak Sanctuaries and Sacred Caves in Minoan Crete. Jonsered: Paul Ǻströms förlag.

  • Kenyon K. (1960). Excavations at Jericho. Volume One. The Tombs Excavated in 1952–1954. London: The British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem.

  • Langford B. Frumkin A. and Zissu B. (2011). The Discovery of the Abud Cave. In the Highland’s Depth 1: 69–77 (Hebrew).

  • Lapinkivi P. (2010). The Neo-Assyrian Myth of Ištar’s Descent and Resurrection. State Archives of Assyria Cuneiform Texts. Vol. VI Winona Lake.

  • Leroi-Gourhan A. (1984). L’art des Cavernes. Atlas des Grottes Ornées Paléolithiques Françaises. Paris. Ministère de la Culture.

  • Lewis-Williams D. (2002a). The mind in the Cave. London: Thames and Hudson.

  • Lewis-Williams D. (2002b). A Cosmos in Stone. Interpreting Religion and Society through Rock Art. Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press.

  • Lewis-Williams D. (2010). Conceiving God. The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion. London: Thames and Hudson.

  • Macalister R.A.S. (1911). The Excavation of Gezer. Volume I. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund by J. Murray.

  • Macalister R.A.S. (1912). The Excavation of Gezer. Volume II. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund by J. Murray.

  • Moyes H. (2012). Sacred Darkness. A Global Perspective on the Ritual Use of Caves. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.

  • Nativ A. (2014). Prioritizing Death and Society. The Archaeology of Chalcolithic and Contemporary Cemeteries in the Southern Levant. Durham: Acumen.

  • Neuville R. (1930). Notes de Préhistoire Palestinienne. Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society 10: 64–78.

  • Rowan Y. and Ilan D. (2012). The Subterranean Landscape of the Southern Levant during the Chalcolithic Period. In Moyes H. (ed.). Sacred Darkness. A Global Perspective on the Ritual Use of Caves. Boulder: University Press of Colorado. Pp. 87–109.

  • Shanon B. (2002). The Antipodes of the Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Schaub R. and Rast W. (1989). Bâb edh Dhrâ‘. Excavations in the Cemetery Directed by Paul W. Lapp (1965–1967). Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.

  • Sieveking A. (1979). The Cave Artists. London: Thames and Hudson.

  • Sireteanu R. Oertel V. Mohr H. Linden D. Singer W. (2008). Graphical illustration and functional neuroimaging of visual hallucinations during prolonged blindfolding: a comparison to visual imagery. Perception 37: 1805–1821.

  • Skeates R. (1991). Caves Cult and Children in Neolithic Abruzzo Central Italy. In Garwood P. Jennings D. Skeates R. and Toms J. (eds.). Sacred and Profane: Proceedings of a Conference on Archaeology Ritual and Religion (pp. 122–134). Oxford: Oxford University Committee for Archeology.

  • Skeates R. (2007). Religious Experience in the Prehistoric Maltese Underworld. In Barrowclough D. and Malone C. (eds.). Cult in Context. Reconsidered Ritual in Archaeology (pp. 90–97). Oxford: Oxbow Books.

  • Tilley C. (1994). A Phenomenology of Landscape. Places Paths and Monuments. Oxford: Berg Publishers.

  • Ustinova Y. (2009). Caves and the ancient Greek mind: descending underground in the search for ultimate truth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Van Buren (1931). Foundation Figurines and Offerings. Berlin: Hans Schoetz & Co.

  • Van Gennep A. (1960). The Rites of Passage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Van de Noort R. (2008). The Archaeology of Wetland Landscapes: Method and Theory at the Beginings of the 21th Century. In David B. and Thomas J. (eds.) Handbook of Landscape Archaeology (pp. 482–489). Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

  • Whitehouse R. (2007). Underground Religion Revisited. In D. Barrowclough and C. Malone (eds.) Cult in Context. Reconsidering Ritual in Archaeology (pp. 97–107). Oxford: Oxbow Books.

  • Zissu B. Langford B. Porat R. Raviv D. and Frumkin A. (2014). An Archaeological Survey of the Elqana Cave in Western Samaria. In the Highland’s Depth 4: 15–31 (Hebrew).

Search
Journal information
Impact Factor


CiteScore 2018: 0.45

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.183
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.233

Metrics
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 200 119 4
PDF Downloads 143 94 5