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date: 27 September 2023

religions, ancient: cognitive anthropology oflocked

religions, ancient: cognitive anthropology oflocked

  • Luther H. Martin


The genealogy of cognitive anthropology includes, among others, N. Chomsky's argument that cultural input underdetermines mental output; C. Lévi-Strauss’ analysis of ethnographic data in terms of fundamental structures of the mind; S. Guthrie's programmatic proposal for a cognitive anthropology of religion; and H. Whitehouse's cognitive anthropology of a Papua New Guinean village. Since ethnographic, like historical and archaeological, evidence represents products of human minds, the empirically testable theories proposed by cognitive scientists, who seek to map traits common to the mental functions of Homo sapiens, promise insights that may help historians connect the dots of their fragmentary, incomplete, even contradictory, data—material and textual—with greater confidence than has previously been the case. Insights from cognitive anthropology into the dynamics of the Roman ritual system provide an instructive example.Official Roman religion was characterized by its frequent repetition of rituals, the conduct of which was supervised by a hierarchy of religio-political authorities: domestically by the paterfamilias, socially by the magister of the collegia, and at the state level by public priests.


  • Roman Myth and Religion

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