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The Secrets in Caves: Use of Caves by Secret Societies

Author(s): Brian Hayden

Year: 2017

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Caves have been recognized as important prehistoric ritual sites for well over a century. Yet, archaeological discussion of the rituals conducted in caves has rarely gone beyond the platitudes that they were locations for contacting the spirits, invoking powers of fertility, or burying the dead. This paper attempts to place the ritual uses of many caves in a more specific ritual context by documenting the ethnographic ritual use of caves by secret society members and relating this to some prehistoric examples, beginning with the painted caves in Upper Paleolithic Europe. Caves provided ideal locations and environments for special types of secret society rituals. The linking of cave use to secret societies opens up a new dimension of inferences about rituals and the nature of the cultures that supported such organizations.

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The Secrets in Caves: Use of Caves by Secret Societies. Brian Hayden. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429390)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14371

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America