2014 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
"Sacred Darkness brings together an international group of scholars to explore the potential of multidisciplinary research for deciphering the meaning of the dark spaces of caves in ancient societies. Scholars with years of experience beneath the earth bring us up-to-date on the latest thinking on an often-neglected subject. This perceptively edited volume is certain to become a standard work on the subject."
—Brian Fagan, author of Elixir and Cro-Magnon
"The book is a gold mine of information and insights; its cross-cultural and trans-temporal coverage is sure to stimulate new thinking about how caves figure in people's lives."
—Wendy Ashmore, University of California-Riverside
"[A]n impressive and laudable compendium of archaeological, ethnographic, and cognitive studies of human ritual and religious practice conducted within caves or similar natural and constructed features."
"This volume is stimulating and unique, and has global importance."
"Fascinating. . . .the most up-to-date and comprehensive exploration of what we know about the human use of caves."
—Time and Mind
"An excellent start to the cross-cultural study of the ritual use of caves."
"[I]t preserves the enthusiasm for cave spaces and rituals while debunking some of the more popular and pernicious stereotypes about caves and cave users. Anthropologists interested in religion or in spatial aspects of culture . . . will find much to appreciate in this collection, and the extensive reference lists following each chapter offer many directions for future research."
—Anthropology Review Database
—Cave and Karst Science
“A valuable resource not just for archaeologists, speleologists, and historians of religion, but also for depth psychologists, artists, and seers of all disciplines whose work takes them, as did Jung’s, ‘down into the dark depths’.”
Caves have been used in various ways across human society, but despite the persistence within popular culture of the iconic caveman, deep caves were never used primarily as habitation sites for early humans. Rather, in both ancient and contemporary contexts, caves have served primarily as ritual spaces. In Sacred Darkness, contributors use archaeological evidence as well as ethnographic studies of modern ritual practices to envision the cave as place of spiritual and ideological power that emerges as a potent venue for ritual practice.
Covering the ritual use of caves in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, Mesoamerica, and the US Southwest and Eastern woodlands, this book brings together case studies by prominent scholars whose research spans from the Paleolithic period to the present day. These contributions demonstrate that cave sites are as fruitful as surface contexts in promoting the understanding of both ancient and modern religious beliefs and practices.
This state-of-the-art survey of ritual cave use will be one of the most valuable resources for understanding the role of caves in studies of religion, sacred landscape, or cosmology and a must-read for any archaeologist interested in caves.
Contributors: Mark Aldenderfer, Joanna E.P. Appleby, Graeme Barker, Donald J. Blakeslee, James E. Brady, Wayne Brennan, Robert S. Carr, Andrew T. Chamberlain, Cheryl Claassen, Jean Clottes, Nathan Craig, Alan Cressler, Joseph Douglas, Stašo Forenbaher, Jerry E. Hilliard, Joseph J. Hobbs, David Ilan, Timothy Kaiser, Matthew Kelleher, Lindsay Lloyd-Smith, Jami J. Lockhart, Caroline A.T. Malone, Patrick McCafferty, Preston T. Miracle, Daniel R. Montello, Holley Moyes, Scott Nicolay, Sue O'Connor, Sandra Pannell, Michael P. Pateman, Dave Pross, Keith M. Prufer, Olaf H. Prufer, Terence Ranger, Jeff B. Ransom, Yorke M. Rowan, George Sabo III, William C. Schaffer, Jan F. Simek, Robin Skeates, Stuart Tyson Smith, Simon K.F. Stoddart, Andrea Stone, Paul S.C. Taçon, Peter Tomkins, Patty Jo Watson, Ezra B.W. Zubrow