The practice of archaeology—the study of material evidence of past human activities—is not in alignment with the human drive to understand relics of the material past as touchstones of mythic origins and evidence of the sacred. New and alternative religious movements, political movements, and popular culture use archaeological artifacts and monuments as slates on which to inscribe stories of supernatural ancestors, advanced civilizations and races, and lost ancient wisdom that justify critiquing or displacing existing religious and cultural structures and knowledge. The rhetorical power of these metaphorical (and sometimes literal) texts derives from the symbolic capital of the practice and profession of archaeology even as the content and form of these texts is in conflict with archaeology. The articles in this special issue of Nova Religio examine how archaeology is used to create new sacred meanings and narratives, and how archaeologists need to engage with persons attributing these alternative meanings to archaeological artifacts.

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