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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Ethnoarchaeology in medieval Nubian studies: the 'datio salis' hermeneutics
Author:Zurawski, Bogdan
Periodical:Hemispheres: Studies on Cultures and Societies
Geographic term:Egypt
Abstract:Vestiges of the 'datio salis' ritual (the custom of placing lumps of salt in a burial chamber) were first encountered during the first field season of the Archaeological Survey of Nubia in 1907-1908. The commonly accepted hermeneutics of the 'datio salis' phenomenon in Christian burials in medieval Nubia and Egypt links this custom with the ancient Egyptian practice of mummification. This hypothesis, however, neglects the religious-magical connotations of salt. Societies inhabiting the Nile Valley and the Mediterranean region, both past and present, frequently employ salt in rites of passage to protect the participants, who are in a state of 'sacral vulnerability', from malevolent spirits. The deceased in medieval Nubia, as elsewhere, was 'sacrally vulnerable', and hence needed potent amulets and protective ceremonies. The methodological background for such hermeneutics is the discontinuous ethnoarchaeological analogy, in which there is evident similarity between the past archaeological pattern and the modern ethnographical situation, despite the lack of a direct or indirect historical relationship. Notes, ref.