Accessing past beliefs and practices: the case of Lemnian Earth

Hall, A. and Photos-Jones, E. (2008) Accessing past beliefs and practices: the case of Lemnian Earth. Archaeometry, 50(6), pp. 1034-1049. (doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4754.2007.00377.x)

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Lemnian Earth, a medicine in the shape of a stamped clay tablet (sphragis) from Lemnos, northeastern Greece, was much valued in antiquity and in the post-medieval period as an antidote to poison and a treatment for other ailments. Although it was among the first archaeological materials to be subjected to chemical analysis (in 1807), there is still no clear understanding as to what made Lemnian Earth an effective medicine. We argue that Lemnian Earth, the artefact, was not the same as Lemnian Earth, the raw material. We suggest a composition for the artefact by scrutinizing the documentary evidence for its properties and by considering the geochemical processes that led to the formation of the raw material and the ritual relating to its extraction. The study of the latter highlights the need for archaeological materials scientists to recognize ritual as a possible manifestation of physical and chemical processes carried out within the framework of past beliefs and practices.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Photos-Jones, Dr Effie and Hall, Dr Allan
Authors: Hall, A., and Photos-Jones, E.
Subjects:C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Journal Name:Archaeometry
ISSN (Online):1475-4754
Published Online:30 January 2008

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