INTER-SECTION Volume II - Page 16

LIMINALITY ALONG THE LIMES
Tom E . de Rijk Leiden University
| “ Linguistic Landscape Studies ” and Archaeology |

LIMINALITY ALONG THE LIMES

A STUDY ON THE MATILO MASK , ITS DEPOSITIONAL CONTEXT AND THE ASSOCIATED FINDS

Tom E . de Rijk Leiden University

Abstract In Western Europe many Roman finds have been retrieved from wet locations . A possible explanation for why these finds , often still useable , ended up there is the association of wet places with liminality . In this article , the concept of liminality will first be elaborated with a focus on places that are in-between ( cosmological ) worlds , and that are both natural and artificial . In this regard , an example of the former is the river Rhine , which formed a part of the Limes frontier ( between the Roman world and everything else ), while the Corbulo channel may be seen as an example of the latter . In contrast to the majority of Roman helmets found along the Lower Rhine Limes the Matilo mask was discovered during an excavation , which allows a thorough analysis of its depositional context . Such finds , and the Matilo mask itself , have frequently been interpreted as depositions by soldiers after their military service to thank the Gods for their protection . This paper however , attempts to show that the interpretation of these ritual practices in terms of liminality is also possible . As a consequence , interpretations of mask finds and contexts that are similar to that of the Matilo mask might need to take liminality into consideration as well .
Keywords Ritual deposition , Corbulo channel , Roman helmets , bronze mask , river finds .
E-mail address : Tomderijk1 @ gmail . com

Introduction

Wet places have long been associated with rituals : during the Bronze Age in the Low Countries weapons were deposited in rivers and bogs while in the Roman period temple at Bath watery contexts were used to ritually dispose of objects ( Fokkens and Fontijn 2013 , 564 ; Kamash 2009 , 230-232 ; Nicolay 2007 , 124 ). Nevertheless , a constructed sanctuary does not seem to have been needed to perform rituals , so long as the location was considered to be extraordinary ( Derks 1998 , 132 ). Another respect in which depositions in wet places differ from rituals in built sanctuaries is that the objects could not be retrieved anymore , they seem to disappear , and become invisible as they submerge ( Cousins 2014 , 61 ; Kamash 2009 , 232 ). Water can be in both a natural or man-made ( i . e . artificial ) situation despite being intrinsically natural and it is this fuzziness of natures which is of importance for liminality , with which wet places are often associated ( Cousins 2014 , 60-61 ; Kamash 2009 , 230 ). This concept was described by Thomassen ( 2015 , 40 ) as follows :
“ Liminality involves the experience of inbetweenness itself , as well as how exactly that experience is shaped and structured anew as subjects and collectivities move through the in-between , try to overcome it , and leave it behind-with a difference ”
INTER-SECTION | 2016