chapter  1
Introduction: the archaeology of world religion
The archaeology of world religion Timothy Insoll
Pages 32

The archaeology of world religions is a vast subject, and one which it might seem foolhardy to attempt to consider within the confines of an edited volume composed of nine chapters, three of which are considerably shorter commentaries. However, this volume does not claim to be universal, rather it aims to examine the relationship between, and the contribution archaeology can make to the study of, what are today termed world religions, through focusing upon the examples of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. This raises a couple of questions. First, why world religions in particular? Although there is no shortage of archaeological studies of elements of world religion in ‘mainstream’ archaeological literature there appears to be a gap with regard to an overall consideration of archaeology and world religion (a notable but dated exception is a namesake volume [Finegan 1952] which attempts to be all-inclusive but is now rather dated). There is also a certain imbalance in the mainstream literature (the focus, at least, of this introductory chapter) in favour of Christian archaeological remains (see for example Frend 1996, Platt 1987, Blair and Pyrah 1996), probably a reflection of the bulk of work having been undertaken in Europe, which is also the centre of many of the relevant archaeological journals and publishing houses. Thus applicable studies of Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, or Jewish archaeology or archaeological material tend to be confined to specialist journals and other publications, though to be fair this imbalance has begun to be rectified of late (see for example Barnes 1995, Insoll 1999a).