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Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/ Rights

by Jenny Blain, Robert J Wallis
Journal of Material Culture ()

Abstract

Our Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/Rights project (www.sacredsites.org.uk) examinesphysical, spiritual and interpretative engagements of today’s pagans withsacred sites, theorizes ‘sacredness’, and explores theimplications of pagan engagements with sites for heritage management and archaeologymore generally, in terms of ‘preservation ethic’ vis-a-visactive engagement. In this article, we explore ways in which ‘sacredsites’ - both the term and the sites - are negotiated by differentinterest groups, foregrounding our locations, as an archaeologist/art historian(Wallis) and anthropologist (Blain), and active pagan engagers with sites. Examplesof pagan actions at such sites, including at Avebury and Stonehenge, demonstrate notonly that their engagements with sacred sites are diverse and that identities - suchas that of ‘new indigenes’ - arising therefrom are complex, butalso that heritage management has not entirely neglected the issues. In addition tomanaged open access solstice celebrations at Stonehenge, a climate of inclusivityand multivocality has resulted in fruitful negotiations at the Rollright Stones.

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