Nara to Norwich: the Arrival of Belief, religion and archaeology at the extremities of the Silk Roads AD 500-1000

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


This paper will discuss a wide-ranging comparative study of the material cultures and landscapes associated with the adoption of Buddhism in Japan and Korea and the conversion to Christianity around the North Sea. We are embarked on a comprehensive reassessment of the historical and archaeological evidence for the spread of these two religions into regions at either end of the Eurasian landmass. In both places there were existing beliefs with time-depth that can only be explored archaeologically. Shinto in Japan flourished alongside Buddhism throughout the long history of the Japanese state and was closely connected with the deification of the Imperial Family. We will examine the evidence from the sacred Island of Okinoshima, off the coast of Kyushu, and compare it with archaeological sites around the North Sea where pre-Christian religious activity is inferred to have taken place. Clearly religion around the North Sea and understanding the associated beliefs is elusive. Votive offerings and structured deposits in both situations offer insights into the materiality of belief. A comparative approach, used reflexively, we argue, has the potential to offer insights into belief and intention.
How the two religions affected state formation and gave rise to new forms of monumentality is also being explored in this work, with the abandonment of mounded tombs in favour of other types of burial practices and the development of temples, churches and urban forms. The role and impact of monasticism and the clergy will be examined through the nature and materiality of early monastic life, including the gendering of religious experience
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventTheoretical Archaeology Group Conference - UCL, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 16 Dec 201918 Dec 2019


ConferenceTheoretical Archaeology Group Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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