Rethinking archaeologies of pilgrimage

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Pilgrimage instigates relationships between phenomena that produce hierophanies, or sacred, enchanting experiences. In this paper I argue that pilgrimage scholars should focus on the relational qualities of pilgrimage in order to rethink and produce more detailed, sensuous descriptions and analyses of this practice. This can be done by employing “relational approaches,” seen here as perspectives that recognize and prioritize the interconnections among persons, places, things, and substances. I further suggest that focusing on movement, the vitality of places and materials, and the senses is useful in thinking about the relational aspects of pilgrimage. Moreover, archaeologists are well-situated to investigate these phenomena and thus can and should push pilgrimage studies in new directions. I provide a case study of the Emerald Acropolis, an 11th-century Cahokian pilgrimage center. Cahokians traveled to Emerald on certain occasions and, while there, manipulated particular substances—earth and water—in ways that gathered otherworldly powers in affective ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-283
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Cahokia
  • Emerald Acropolis
  • Mississippian culture
  • Pilgrimage
  • relationality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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