Abstract and Keywords
Food and drink have an especially prominent place in ritual and religion because they are ‘embodied material culture’. That is, they are material objects produced specifically to be destroyed by a form of consumption that involves ingestion into the human body. Feasting and fasting are two alternative ways to mobilize the symbolic power of food and drink, through either ritualized commensal consumption or refusal of consumption. Although ethnographic and historical research has shown that both practices are common in societies around the world and throughout history, the archaeological visibility of fasting is far more limited than that of feasting. This undoubtedly explains why the surge of recent interest by archaeologists in feasting has not been accompanied by a similar pursuit of fasting. This article examines the symbolic logic and material basis of both practices through a theoretical discussion based upon comparative ethnographic and historical data.
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