1st Edition

Human Sacrifice and Value Revisiting the Limits of Sacred Violence from an Anthropological and Archaeological Perspective

    422 Pages 72 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The present volume was made possible by the Norwegian Research Council’s generous funding of the Human Sacrifice and Value project (FRIPROHUMSAM 275947). This volume explores concepts of human sacrifice, focusing on its value – or multiplicity of values – in relative cultural and temporal terms, whether sacrifice is expressed in actual killings, in ideas revolving around ritualized, sanctioned or sanctified violence or loss, or in transformed and (often sublimated) undertakings.

    Bridging a wide variety of interdisciplinary perspectives, it analyses a spectrum of sacrificial logics and actions, daring us to rethink the scholarship of sacrifice by considering the oft hidden, subliminal and even paradoxical values and motivations that underlie sacrificial acts. The chapters give needed attention to pivotal questions in studies of sacrifice and ritualized violence – such as how we might employ new approaches to the existing evidence or revise long-debated theories about what exactly ‘human sacrifice’ is or might be, or why human sacrifice seems to emerge so often and so easily in human social experience across time and in vastly different cultures and historical contexts. Thus, the volume will strike a chord with scholars of sociology, anthropology, archaeology, history, religious studies, political science and economics – wherever interest is focused on critically rethinking questions of sacred and sanctified human violence, and the values that make it what it is.


                Rane Willerslev                                                                                                                                                                      

    1          Introduction: Introducing Sacrificial Values             

                Sean O’Neill, Matthew J. Walsh and Marianne Moen


    PART I

    Observing Sacrificial Logics and Social Values                            


    2          Some Human Sacrifices in Mongolia and Their Rationales

                Caroline Humphrey


    3          CEO Dismissal as an Act of Human Sacrifice: Metaphor or Reality?                      

    Jan Ketil Arnulf, Janicke Rasmussen, Sandra Hjersing and Thea Berner


    4          The Economy of Sacrifice: Christ, Coins and the Eucharist in the Middle Ages

                Svein H. Gullbekk and Martin Wansgaard Jurgensen



    Reading Logics and Values From Archaeology                           


    5          Competitive Violence and Ruling Elites in Early Dynastic Mesopotamia               

                Aubrey Baadsgaard


    6          Human Sacrifice in Ancient Near Eastern Societies 

                Stephen Lumsden and David Usieto Cabrera


    7          The Social Context of Human Sacrifice in Ancient Egypt

    Roselyn A. Campbell


    8          Funerary Dramas and Ritual Killing in the Slavic World: Written Sources and Archaeological Realities                     

                Leszek Gardeła


    9          From Brave Warriors to Innocent Children: Understanding the Foundations of Ritual Violence in the Moche Valley, North Coast of Peru, 200–1450 A.D.            

                Gabriel Prieto and John Verano


    10        Human Sacrifices at Huaca Pucllana in Lima, Peru  

                Andreas v. Wadskjær, Jens H. Nederby and Luise Ørsted Brandt


    11        Making an Impact: Ritual Public Goods and the Emergence of Retainer Sacrifice in an Early State of Korea                                                             

                Matthew Conte and Jangsuk Kim


    12        Ritual Killings as Resource Complex in the Viking Age Funeral Ceremony           

                Matthias S. Toplak




    Reading Transitions in Value Through Exegesis, Ethnology and Critical Synthesis


    13        Sacrifice in Contemporary Vernacular and Ancient Ritual Texts

                Margo Kitts


    14        Aztec Sacrificial Celebrations as Entertainment? The Physiological and Social Psychological Rewards Attending Aztec Human Sacrifice     

                Linda Hansen


    15        Human Sacrifice as Social Control Through Terror  

                Michael James Winkelman


    16        From Sacrificed Humans to Self-Sacrificing Humans: A Longue-Durée Bio-Cultural Evolutionary Perspective on Human Sacrifice                    

                Anders Klostergaard Petersen





    Matthew J. Walsh is Senior Researcher at the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark.

    Sean O’Neill is Research Counsel in the Department of Archaeology, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, Norway.

    Marianne Moen is Head of Department of Archaeology, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, Norway.

    Eva-Johanna Marie Lafuente Nilsson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Archaeology, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, Norway.

    Svein H. Gullbekk is Professor in the Section for Numismatics and Classical Archaeology, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, Norway.