Jan Johannes Ahlrichs Kai Riehlehttps://orcid.org/0000-0002-8138-4813 Nurzat Sultanalieva

The Production of Liminal Places – An Interdisciplinary Account

Published: 2015-01-01 | DOI: 10.54799/YADX8495


Using the concept of liminality, this paper provides a comparative study of ritual places. The concept was introduced by Arnold van Gennep in his study "rites de passage", in which he differentiated between rites of separation (préliminaires), rites of transition (liminaires) and rites of aggregation (postiliminaires). The main characteristics of liminality were elaborated by Victor Turner: of crucial importance are the temporary dissolution or reversal of existing social structures and the visit of places that are set apart due to their geographical or cultural location. Accordingly, these places enhance the emotional and physical experiences of the individuals participating in the rituals. We discuss case studies from Prehistoric Archaeology, Classical Archaeology and Ethnology: (I) the Heidentor near Egesheim on the Swabian Jura in southwestern Germany, used during the Hallstatt and the La Tène period, (II) the Early Iron Age ritual complex of Francavilla Marittima close to the Ionian coast of Calabria in southern Italy and (III) the recently used pilgrimage site in the Manzhyly-Ata Valley on the shore of Lake Yssyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. The comparative analysis focuses on the spatial and material expressions of liminality and its social significance: the history of origin and usage, special forms of artifacts involved in the rituals and the geographical or cultural location. Due to the exceptional nature of the case studies, their location and long (dis)continuous histories of use, they differ from contemporaneous structures. Altogether, the concept of liminality provides new perspectives on ritual sites and how they were embedded in their surrounding landscapes.

How to Cite

Ahlrichs, Jan Johannes, Kai Riehle, and Nurzat Sultanalieva. 2015. “The Production of Liminal Places – An Interdisciplinary Account”. EAZ – Ethnographisch-Archaeologische Zeitschrift 56 (1/2):205-42. https://doi.org/10.54799/YADX8495.
The Heidentor near the village of Egesheim, distr. Tuttlingen. Photo: Chris Miera 2016
The Heidentor near the village of Egesheim, distr. Tuttlingen. Photo: Chris Miera 2016
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