Accepted Paper:

Scary places: embodied interaction and the spiritual world of the cave  

Author:

Magnus Ljunge (Stockholm University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper aims to discuss the interpretation of caves as mythological places and arenas for ritual activities, focusing on cave paintings in Norway. Theoretical and methodological issues will be addressed, in order to understand why caves were chosen for ritual activities.

Paper long abstract:

The paper aims to discuss the interpretation of caves as mythological places and arenas for ritual activities, focusing on cave paintings in northern Norway. The paintings are considered to be part of the North-Scandinavian rock art tradition, mainly associated with hunter-gather communities, and are dated to the interval 2000-120 BC. The caves have been dealt with rather sparsely within Scandinavian research, and the paintings have mainly been interpreted as expression of ritual activities connected with mythological beliefs, were caves are regarded as liminal places between the living and the spiritual world. The question why caves in particular were thought to have these qualities are left unanswered, or at least the reason for this is pre-supposed. There seems to be a methodological gap between the interpretation of the caves as sacred places of liminality and the prehistoric processes that constituted that particular meaning. Therefore, I will try to discuss some theoretical and methodological tools which could be helpful when trying to understand why caves were chosen for ritual activities and how this could be connected to the paintings. The main focus will be on the embodied interaction with caves, connected to the materiality of the cave itself and the relationship between nature and culture. Defining how the physicality of the cave was important must be regarded essential if any form of place specific meaning is to be discussed.

Panel S20
Going underground: caves, science and theory