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A great deal has been written about religious architecture in ancient cultures, but the great bulk of the literature has tended to be culture-specific. Wightman's volume offers for the first time a comprehensive synopsis of the rich manifestations of religious architecture throughout the ancient world. In addition, the book provides a conceptual framework within which cross-cultural comparisons of religious architecture may usefully take place, and tackles some fundamental issues in relation to the definition and characterisation of sacred space in ancient contexts. The last fifteen years have witnessed the focusing of a great deal of scholarly attention on the archaeology of religions, with the result that today researchers are able to make use of a broad armoury of theoretical and methodological approaches. Yet theory must at all times be tested against material evidence, and here Wightman's volume is timely in laying out empirical data pertaining to all the major traditions of religious architecture in antiquity. The book is comprised of twenty-one chapters divided into five parts. Beginning around twelve thousand years ago at the transition of the Holocene, the book embarks on an explorative journey around the ancient globe, ending between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD. The first four parts of the book deal with broad regions of the ancient world: Western; Pre-Classical Europe and the Mediterranean; the Graeco-Roman world; South and East Asia; and the Americas. Part Five, covering about a quarter of the book, has three chapters, each dealing with aspects of sacred space (Identity and Meaning, Language of Sacred Space, Text and Image). The text is complemented by approximately 400 line drawings in colour - many of which are Wightman's reconstructions of ancient temples and sanctuaries - and 200 photographic plates, most in colour. The volume is rounded off by a comprehensive bibliography with essential literature highlighted, benefiting both the general reader and specialists. Wightman's book will become a work of reference to those interested in gaining or furthering an understanding of architecture, archaeology and religion in the ancient world.
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