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Pilgrimage Made Portable: a Sensory Archaeology of the Monza-Bobbio Ampullae

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Studies of late antique holy land pilgrimage focus closely on textual evidence despite rich material remains, and where the latter are studied semiotic and exegetical interpretations are privileged. I propose a sensory methodology for reinstating the value of material evidence as equal to text, which allows for its materiality rather than reducing it to semiotic abstraction. By asking what objects do (what embodied experiences they prompt), rather than what they mean (what abstract ideas they refer to) we can assess more acutely how and why pilgrimage occurred. This article explores this methodology's implications by applying it to a case study of the well-known Monza-Bobbio ampullae, arguing that they prompted multisensory pilgrimage experience for both pilgrims and non-pilgrims alike, which revealed the divine presence inherent in the loca sancta 'on the move'. This occurred through a particular form of divine mimesis and a culturally-specific understanding of material- ity as infinite.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-12-01

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  • HEROM is an annual online journal presenting innovative contributions tothe study of material culture produced, exchanged, and consumed within the spheres of the Hellenistic kingdoms and the Roman world. The journal publishes papers in the full range of the scholarly field and in all relevant academic disciplines within the arts, humanities, social sciences and environmental sciences. herom creates a bridge between material culture specialists and the wider scientific community, with an interest in how humans interacted with and regarded artefacts from the late 4th century bc to the 7th century ad.

    The journal seeks to provide more visibility for studies of material culture in many ways which are not necessarily covered by existing scholarly journals or conference proceedings. herom studies material culture in its totality, with a view to clarifying the complex wider implications of such evidence for understanding a host of issues concerning the economy, society, daily life, politics, religion, history of the ancient world, among other aspects.
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