Islands as Symbolic Centres of the Early Medieval Settlement Patterns in Middle Pomerania (Northern Poland)
Wyspy jako symboliczne centra wczesnośredniowiecznych mikroregionów osadniczych Pomorza środkowego
Islands have played a significant role in the region of Pomerania. Isolated from the rest of the landscape, islands appealed to the human psyche in a highly distinct way. Because of their geographic isolation, they allowed their inhabitants to develop relations of a transcendental character. According to scholars of religion, when people searched for a place of settlement, they looked, above all, for a specific, unique area. In a symbolic sense, such an area was regarded as a pivot around which social life would revolve. Those parts of land that were surrounded by water were associated with the mythic Primeval Land: the first land emerging from the Primeval Ocean and perceived as the centre of the world, axis mundi. Empirical material obtained in the course of archaeological research allows one to impute and follow such dynamics in traditional communities. By analysing selected sites, this paper explores the complex worldviews of pagan Pomeranians from the early Middle Ages. Material evidence of sacred space organization and relics of ritual activities visible in archaeological sites suggests that isolated parts of land, in the form of islands, were a key component in the creation of the religious and mythical worldview of the pre-Christian inhabitants of early medieval Pomerania.
Baltic Slavs; cult sites; islands; isolation; pagan rituals; Pomerania; symbolic centres
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