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Thighs or tails?: The osteological evidence as a source for Greek ritual norms
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
2009 (English)In: La norme en matière religieuse en Grèce ancienne: Actes du XIe colloque du CIERGA (Rennes, septembre 2007), Liège: Centre international d'édtude de la religion grecque , 2009, 125-151 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Our knowledge of the normative practice of Greek animal sacrifice is usually based on the written and iconographical sources. Recent publications of animal bones from Greek sanctuaries offer new possibilities to define the practical execution of sacrificial rituals. This paper discusses the god's part of the animal victim burnt on the altar, which could consist of the thigh bones or the osphys (sacrum and caudal vertebrae) or both. The altar debris and consumption refuse from ritual contexts allow us to distinguish variations within this norm. Sheep and goat femora were the preferred parts to burn, though at some sites cattle thigh bones were favoured. Tails and sacrum bones are rarely found. Pig bones hardly ever seem to have formed part of the god's share burnt on the altar, though pigs clearly were eaten in sanctuaries. It is suggested that the thigh bones may have been the original offering at a thysia, perhaps a tradition deriving from the Mycenaean period. The burning of the tails could have been inspired from Near eastern sacrificial practices and was perhaps added to the Greek animal sacrifices at a later stage to increase the element of divination.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Liège: Centre international d'édtude de la religion grecque , 2009. 125-151 p.
, Kernos supplement, 21
Keyword [en]
Greek sacrifice, animal bones, thighs, tails, altar, fire, thysia
National Category
Archaeology Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
Research subject
Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-26466ISBN: 978-2-9600717-4-0OAI: diva2:209952
Grekisk offerritual i praktik, tro och teori
Available from: 2009-03-27 Created: 2009-03-27 Last updated: 2010-02-03Bibliographically approved

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Ekroth, Gunnel
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