Università di Pisa, Università di Roma La Sapienza, CNR
During the last decade, numerous ancient and religious studies have been dedicated to reinforcing the pivotal importance of the use of material culture in interpreting religious beliefs and practices both among ancient and modern communities. Moreover, such a ‘material turn’ has also been accompanied by an investigation into how exogenous elements have been added in the creation of new forms of material religiosity (i.e., religious hybridization) through an intermingling between tradition and innovation. Thus, a material approach to the study of religion can support a research agenda that will find answers to explain phenomena of religious hybridizations especially in moments of dramatic cultural transformations. It is based on these premises that the project ‘Godscapes’ aims at using an innovative scientific computational model (i.e., the Semantic Web) that will help in dissecting the selected data on an attempt to define how external elements act as triggers in transforming forms of religiosity. Moreover, this model will be based on the use of a semantic vision of the web in which machine-readable data will enable software agents to query and manipulate information on behalf of users. In order to test this model, our research group has decided to focus on investigating religious architecture, iconicity, funerary and written data within a specific regional area (i.e., the Levantine region) and chronological period (i.e., the Second Millennium BCE). The reason for choosing this particular region and period is related to the fact that the Levantine corridor during the Second Millennium BCE was marked by an intense exchange between indigenous and exogenous elements (e.g., Egyptian, Syro-Mesopotamian, Aegean, Anatolian) that shaped the polytheisms professed by the communities inhabiting this region. Furthermore, it is this cultural and religious intermingling that has also been considered as the source for the emergence of the Israelite monotheism during the First Millennium BCE in this specific region.
Thus, relying on the technologies of the Semantic Web, the objective of this research project is to scientifically define and interpret the relationship between exogenous and autochthonous elements in the Second Millennium BCE polytheisms in the Levant.
In conclusion, the project here proposed aims at defining a new scientific perspective in studying religious phenomena in which material culture can be used to define how things relate to humans and how humans use things to entangle with the divine. In this case, disentangling past forms of religious hybridization can help in understanding modern ones and their social impact among contemporaneous societies.