The archaeology of pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Spain : a landscape perspective
Theoretical perspectives on landscape and bodily engagement with place inform an approach to the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Focused primarily, but not exclusively, on the central Middle Ages, this research confronts two core questions: how did transient, mobile groups perceive and experience the diverse terrain of the pilgrim route in northern Spain? And how may their ephemeral presence be traced in the archaeological record? This thesis is underpinned by the conviction that the journey of medieval pilgrims, as opposed to their destination, deserves greater scrutiny. Three topographically distinct Study Areas along the length of the Camino in Navarre, Burgos and Galicia from the basis for the analysis of localised sets of material culture. Within these areas, historical and geographical information, surviving monuments and structures, and a fieldwork plan designed to engage with the processes of making a linear journey, combine to form data-sets from which to tackle more refined contextual research questions. The main thrust of my argument is that large numbers of pilgrims were heavily influenced by contemporary medieval narrative tradition in which landscape was a powerful metaphor for religious meaning, experience and deportment. Material culture along the Camino speaks volumes about a powerful “culture of the route”, ritual performances, thresholds, transitions, and social relations across landscapes. The sum of evidence indicates a radical impact on local landscapes with some sectors of the community benefiting from the unfolding movement while others appear to distance themselves from the perpetual stream of pilgrims.