Sensory Studies in Antiquity

Projects > Sensory Studies in Antiquity

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Founded in 2015 by Eleanor Betts and Jeff D. Veitch, Sensory Studies in Antiquity is an open forum for discussion and promotion of academic events relating to sensory studies of the ancient world, from prehistory to late antiquity, and across the Graeco-Roman world.

The research area of Sensory Studies includes a variety of academic disciplines across the humanities and sciences, and the Sensory Studies in Antiquity network seeks to facilitate and promote research carried out across these disciplines. We aim to bring together classicists, ancient historians and archaeologists working on various aspects of the senses, sensory experience and related fields. 

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Special Issue of The Open Arts Journal (‘Pompeii: Materiality, Sensuality, and Lived Religion’)

Projects > Open Arts Journal


We are currently working on a special themed issue of the Open Arts Journal

Pompeii: Materiality, Sensuality, and Lived Religion

This peer-reviewed journal issue will bring the cults and sacred landscape of ancient Pompeii into a dialogue with new work in the field of material religion, a research area developed primarily within the discipline of Religious Studies, which has important overlaps with lived religion and sensory studies. The project aims to provide a fresh, interdisciplinary account of Pompeian religion which applies - and contributes to - new theories about the relationship between materiality and the sacred. It will focus on individual case-studies from Pompeii, including temple buildings, cult artefacts, and ritual performances; as well as providing a detailed analysis of their chosen case-studies, contributors will be invited to consider two broader questions. What can the theories and approaches of material religion add to existing understandings of Pompeii? What can studies of Pompeii, in turn, bring to the ‘table’ of material religion?

In the introduction to his Key Terms in Material Religion (2015, Bloomsbury), S. Brent Plate offers the following working definition: “material religion refers to (1) an investigation of the interactions between human bodies and physical objects, both natural and human-made; (2) with much of the interaction taking place through sense perception; (3) in special and specified places and times; (4) in order to orient, and sometimes disorient, communities and individuals; (5) toward the formal strictures and structures of religious traditions.” Ancient Pompeii can be made to speak powerfully to every element of this working definition. Our archaeological evidence includes thousands of ‘things’ that modern people would recognise as related to the ‘sacred’, and many others that could be profitably studied from the perspective of implicit religion. We have cult statues and figurines, wall-paintings decorated with images of priests and deities, graffiti related to cults and rituals, votive offerings, altars, structures associated with temples and sanctuaries, jewellery inlaid with images of gods, and painted shrines from streets and houses. This evidence has been studied relentlessly ever since its discovery, and has generated a huge bibliography across multiple languages. However, traditional archaeological and historical approaches have tended to study these religious buildings, images and artefacts in isolation from the human bodies that built, perceived, and used them - as well as from the changing natural and human-made elements of the surrounding landscape. In turn, there has often been a too-stark boundary drawn between the manifestly ‘religious’ elements of Pompeian life, and those which might be (ahistorically) considered as more ‘secular’.

This themed issue aims to reintegrate the surviving material evidence from Pompeii within the diverse range of lived, multi-sensory contexts in which it was produced and encountered, and to bring a collection of discrete case-studies to bear on current debates about how religion is produced and experienced in and through the material world.

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The Mugello Valley Archaeological Project: Research at Poggio Colla and Albagino

Projects > Mugello Valley

Prof. Phil Perkins co-directs the Albagino Project with Prof. Gregory Warden (Franklin University Switzerland).

The 2018 fieldwork season investigated the archaeological context of an important group of bronze votive objects found near a dried up lake in the High Apennines at the site of Albagino (Bruscoli, Comune di Firenzuola).

The project website explains that “the discovery and publication of this group of bronzes is important because of their undisputed context that raises immediate questions about the ritual landscape of this small lake at the crest of Apennines, halfway between Florence and Bologna. Where were the figures made? How and why did they find their way to this particular place? What is their cultural meaning? There are countless questions that come to mind about the persons who made and deposited these objects as well as to the various meanings of those depositions, those gifts to the god(s) of the place. The Albagino project, through excavation and multi-disciplinary research, hopes to provide insight into some of these questions.”

See The Mugello Valley Archaeological Project website for more details and the latest project news.

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Artwork on this page by Leslie Pickel

The Votives Project: Offerings to the Gods from Antiquity to the Present

Projects > The Votives Project


Founded in 2014 by Emma-Jayne Graham and Jessica Hughes, The Votives Project is a network of people from different backgrounds who study, create or use votive offerings or other related ways of communicating with the divine. It aims to facilitate dialogue between academic disciplines, and between academics and religious ‘practitioners’, and in doing so to develop rich cross-cultural and multi-period understandings of votive material and contexts.

Visit the website at

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Call for Proposals: Bloomsbury Studies in Material Religion

Projects > Bloomsbury Studies in Material Religion


Bloomsbury welcomes book proposals forBloomsbury Studies in Material Religion, edited by Birgit Meyer (University of Utrecht, the Netherlands), David Morgan (Duke University, USA), Crispin Paine (UCL, UK), S. Brent Plate (Hamilton College, USA), and Amy Whitehead (Bath Spa University, UK).

This is the first book series dedicated exclusively to studies in material religion. Within the field of lived religion, the series is concerned with the material things with which people do religion, and how these things – objects, buildings, landscapes – relate to people, their bodies, clothes, food, actions, thoughts and emotions. The series engages and advances theories in ‘sensuous’ and ‘experiential’ religion, as well as informing museum practices and influencing wider cultural understandings with relation to religious objects and performances. Books in the series are at the cutting edge of debates as well as developments in fields including religious studies, anthropology, museum studies, art history, and material culture studies.

Forthcoming titles:

Christianity and the Limits of Materiality, Minna Opas and Anna Haapalainen (University of Turku, Finland)

Materiality, Practice, and Performance at Sacred Sites in India and Pakistan, Navtej K. Purewal (SOAS, University of London, UK) and Virinder S. Kalra (University of Manchester, UK)

Food, Festival and Religion, Francesca Ciancimino Howell (Naropa University, USA)

Museums of World Religions, Charles Orzech (University of Glasgow, UK)

 Please send initial enquiries to Amy Whitehead, Managing Editor ( or Lalle Pursglove, Senior Commissioning Editor (

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