Baron Thyssen Centre for the Study of Ancient Material Religion
The Baron Thyssen Centre for the Study of Ancient Material Religion was founded at The Open University in 2018 to promote research into the material, visual and other sensory aspects of Greek, Etruscan and Roman religions, and to bring this research into dialogue with work on material religion in later periods.
The Centre is based in the Department of Classical Studies at The Open University. Collaboratively, members explore the sacred objects, bodies and rituals of classical antiquity, addressing such topics as votives, magic, oracles, cult statues, pilgrimage, places and sacred healing. They work with art and archaeology, although they also look beyond these conventional ‘homes’ of ancient material religion, drawing on the methods, tools and perspectives of literature, philology, philosophy, classical reception studies and digital humanities.
The Centre’s aims are (1) to support the systematic study of how ancient religion happened in and through material things, and (2) to bring this ancient evidence into productive dialogue with the debates and scholarship on material religions in later historical periods, right up to the present day. The activities of the Centre include a programme of live events (seminars, workshops, conferences), print and online publications on ancient material religion topics, and a suite of Open Access digital resources. It also supports the work of PhD students at The Open University working in related topics. The Centre draws on the advice and expertise of an international advisory board, which includes experts in Greek, Etruscan and Roman religion, as well as leading scholars from the wider field of material religion. Other contributors help members address the Centre’s aims by writing essays, giving talks and interviews, and contributing to audio and video documentaries.
Together, they address a wide range of questions related to the study of ancient material religion, including the following:
- What are the unique forms and traditions of Greek, Etruscan and Roman material religion (including lived experience and embodied practices as well as material ‘things’)?
- How and why do these forms and traditions change as they move across time and space? How are they differently experienced by people with different cultural, social, gendered and embodied perspectives?
- How are perspectives on ancient material religion shaped by later views of material culture and the sacred?
- What is the ‘legacy’ of ancient material religion? For example, how does classical antiquity impact on later religions? And how do the sacred objects, bodies and rituals of classical antiquity permeate the cultural imagination today?
No, this infrastructure does not provide funding.
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