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Landforms as sacred places: implications for geodiversity and geoheritage


Kiernan, K, Landforms as sacred places: implications for geodiversity and geoheritage, Geoheritage, 7, (2) pp. 177-193. ISSN 1867-2477 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 The European Association for Conservation of the Geological Heritage

DOI: doi:10.1007/s12371-014-0128-6


The natural environments amid which human societies have evolved have influenced the development of spiritual and religious belief systems. Nature, including natural landforms, continues to figure prominently in traditional and polytheistic faiths and residually in monotheistic faiths. This prominence has resulted in numerous landforms, including some islands, water bodies, rocks, mountains and caves, coming to be regarded as sacred sites, thereby adding a cultural dimension to their potential natural geoheritage status. Sacred status may confer a form of proxy reservation that aids protection of the natural values of a site but this potential varies considerably between and within faiths, largely according to the degree of anthropocentricity in how the faith is interpreted and practiced. In some cases, religious practices can involve deliberate removal of natural heritage attributes from the site; in others, site degradation results from visitor traffic or the installation of iconography or infrastructure. Managers of sacred geoheritage may be faced with challenges related to the continuation of the religious activities that underpin the cultural geoheritage values of a site versus the harm these practices may cause to its natural geoheritage values. But even where dominant local stakeholders are concerned only with the religious function or only with the natural function, it may still be possible to influence site management in ways beneficial to other values. Particular challenges are posed where sites are shared between multiple faiths, by interfaith conflict, by the structures and evolution of faith-based site governance systems, necessary confidentiality concerning some sites, and achieving productive liaison and co-operation between disparate stakeholders.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:geoheritage, geopiety, geotourism, religious tourism
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Physical geography and environmental geoscience
Research Field:Physical geography and environmental geoscience not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Other environmental management
Objective Field:Other environmental management not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Kiernan, K (Dr Kevin Kiernan)
ID Code:93571
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:27
Deposited By:Geography and Environmental Studies
Deposited On:2014-08-08
Last Modified:2016-08-24

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