Mesopotamian Clay Tokens, Pilgrimage, and Interaction

Author(s): Joel Palka

Year: 2017


This study explores the possibility that some Mesopotamian clay tokens were pilgrim’s tokens, which signified interaction with spiritual powers or transactions with a shrine’s religious specialists or administrators. Pilgrim’s tokens around the world have often been made of earth and clay, some as effigies of goods desired or symbols of shrines and their spiritual forces, that are carried in bags, miniature ceramic vessels, or bullae. Previous investigations indicate that earthen artifacts have been made for pilgrim’s badges, offerings to deities, pilgrim’s blessings, and items exchanged between pilgrims, priests, or family members. These objects represent interaction between people and divine forces, and they show that a sacred journey was made to people back home. Tokens also represent economic transactions between pilgrims and vendors. Additionally, earthen tokens have been deposited at shrines as gifts, taken back to natal communities, or ingested to integrate spiritual forces in the body. In this presentation, I examine clay tokens from Mesopotamia, their archaeological provenience, and the social contexts of their production, exchange, and use to ascertain how they may have been utilized by pilgrims and ritual specialists.

Cite this Record

Mesopotamian Clay Tokens, Pilgrimage, and Interaction. Joel Palka. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430767)


Geographic Keywords
West Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17632