The stark, abstract Cycladic figurines found in the Aegean Cyclades islands have had enormous influence on modern art. But when were these enigmatic pieces made, and what were the settlements that produced the figurines? Colin Renfrew has been studying the material since he was a young man in the 1960s. Here he reveals the centrality of the island of Keros to the story. He believes it must have been a major ritual centre of the Cycladic civilisation in the early Bronze Age. Was Keros perceived as the seat of the gods to whom tribute had to be paid? And were the figurines offerings of sorts? Renfrew reveals all.
We then move forward in time to the 4th century BC. Fanum Voltumnae was the sacred shrine cum parliament at which the heads of the Etruscan League would meet each year. The historian Livy mentions the site a number of times but failed to specify its whereabouts. Now, however, an archaeological team believes it has found the site. Judith Harris recounts the history and reports on the hunt for Fanum.
As the features in this issue illustrate, shrines and ritual sites are the very stuff of archaeology. Yet the archaeology of African traditional religions – variously labelled as earth and ancestral cults, animism, totemism, and shamanism – has been largely neglected in comparison to that of world religions, notably Islam and Christianity. However, in 2004 a group of archaeologists began exploring the archaeology of the Tallensi of Northern Ghana and their work is already yielding stimulating information.
From Ghana we leap to the cradle of civilisation with a round-up of the latest archaeological work in Central Turkey. Among the sites we visit is the iconic Neolithic ‘city’ of