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The Desert Origins of God: Experience and Materiality of Desert Cults in the Southern Levant and Northern Arabia

This research project aims to study the experience, material culture, and social background of the cultic practices of the peoples that lived in the southern arid margins of the Levant (Negev, Edom, Sinai) and northern Arabia (Hejaz) in antiquity, including their interactions with the religions that penetrated from the cultivated lands in pre-Classical and Classical Antiquity. It will critically compare the religious worlds that developed, were introduced, and merged in the arid interfaces of the southern Levant and the Arabian Peninsula, adopting an interdisciplinary approach, using historical, archaeological, and geospatial technology. Efforts will be focused on a few historical cases, such as the pre-Israelite roots of Yahwism and the Israelite sanctuaries in the southern arid margins of Palestine, the Late Iron Age Edomite cult, the Nabataean religion, and the pre-Islamic Arabian cults. These case studies will contribute in a unique way to big historical questions of the origins of key Near Eastern religions (Was there something unique in the desert cults? How were the religious experiences shaped by the interactions between the local rituals and the sanctuary cults that penetrated from the agricultural lands?) and to the much wider debate of the role played by trade and cultural interconnections in the diffusion of religious ideas in preindustrial societies.


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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].