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Title: The death cults of prehistoric Malta : new archaeological excavations reveal that as the ancient island societies suffered from environmental decline, they developed an extreme religious preoccupation with life and death
Authors: Malone, Caroline
Bonanno, Anthony
Gouder, Tancred
Stoddart, Simon
Trump, David H.
Keywords: Archaeology -- Malta -- Gozo
Burial -- Malta
Antiquities, Prehistoric -- Malta
Tombs -- Malta
Issue Date: 1993-12
Citation: Malone, C., Bonanno, A., Gouder, T., Stoddart, S., & Trump, D.H. (1993). Scientific American, 269 (6), 76-83
Abstract: The Mediterranean region is a fine laboratory for the scientific study of early religions because so many emerged there. Everyone has heard of the mythology of Greece and the cults surrounding the Roman emperors. Yet those were the religions of city-states not far removed from our own modern societies. Far less well known are the religions of the agricultural communities that preceded the advance of Greco-Roman civilization. In several of the latter. images of corpulent human figures played an important role. Because some of these figures are recognizably female in shape, archaeologists sometimes refer to them as "fat ladies" and associate them with the celebration of fertility, both human and agricultural. On one small group of islands, those of Malta, such figures became the object of an infatuation that was closely linked to the construction of the earliest free-standing public stone buildings in the world. Those temples and the underground burial chambers related to them contained many images of obese humans some no larger than a few centimeters, others the size of giants-as well as of animals and phallic symbols. A collaborative project between British and Maltese archaeologists, of which we are the directors, has recently made spectacular discoveries about the artistic representations of the so-called mother goddesses. These findings have cast new light on how certain religious practices evolved on Malta and perhaps on why they eventually disappeared. They suggest the religion itself encompassed much more than a worship of human fecundity. They also tell a cautionary tale about what happens when a people focus too much energy on worshiping life rather than sustaining it.
Appears in Collections:Melitensia Works - ERCASHArc

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