Altered states of consciousness and ritual in late Bronze Age Cyprus

Collard, David (2011) Altered states of consciousness and ritual in late Bronze Age Cyprus. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This thesis combines an anthropological approach to the study of Altered States of Consciousness (ASCs) with a detailed analysis of previously published evidence for the consumption of psychoactives from Late Bronze Age Cypriote (Late Cypriote) contexts to investigate the possibility that such mental phenomena may have been utilised within religious rituals of this period. This evidence primarily consists of ceramic vessels associated with the consumption of opium and alcohol (often supported by organic residue analysis), but also includes iconography, ethnographic and historical sources and neuro-psychological studies of the effects of the relevant psychoactive substances. This range of evidence is analysed using a ‘contextual analysis’ designed to interpret the meanings (symbolic and socio-political) associated with the ASCs these substances can induce, particularly in relation to ritual practice.

Within Late Cypriote mortuary ritual, extreme drunkenness and opium-induced ASCs are interpreted to have been symbolically linked to ritualised interaction with the underworld, suggesting that these mental phenomena possessed significant symbolic meaning. In the context of mortuary feasting, however, alcohol induced ASCs also appears to have possessed significant socio-political meaning relating to their ability to promote the development of group identity and the negotiation of individual rights and status.

In non-mortuary contexts opium consumption was identified in a limited number of cases, exclusively linked with religious ritual, suggesting a continued association between the supernatural and opium induced ASCs, most likely within the context of divination ritual. In these cases opium consumption appears to have been restricted, suggesting that this activity had been incorporated into strategies involved with the ritualised legitimisation and maintenance of status and hierarchy. Alcohol induced ASCs, however, are primarily associated with feasting within non-mortuary ritual, suggesting that the socio-political meanings associated with such convivial activity were most prominent in these contexts.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Cavanagh, W.G.
Henderson, J.
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
ID Code:2322
Deposited By:Mr David Collard
Deposited On:26 Mar 2012 14:30
Last Modified:26 Mar 2012 14:34

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