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Unit information: Archaeology of Death, Burial and Ritual in 2015/16

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Unit name Archaeology of Death, Burial and Ritual
Unit code ARCH35003
Credit points 30
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Tubb
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

The archaeology of death, burial and ritual is a complex topic requiring study using a number of archaeological and anthropological methods. This option will examine themes relating to death burial and ritual from the Neolithic to the Medieval period and will include monument morphology, the archaeology of ritual landscapes, changes and significance of mortuary practice, cultural and social interpretation of funerary practices and paleopathology. Consideration will also be given to current opinion on the ethical implications of the study of human remains.

The unit aims to provide students with: a critical comprehension of the nature of rituals and religions and critical approaches to them; familiarity with common themes and traditions in rituals and religions; the social and ideological implications of rituals and religions; a sound and critical knowledge of ritual practices in a variety of prehistoric and historic societies in Britain and Ireland, Europe and some other regions of the world; an appreciation of the problems and potentials of archaeological approaches to ritual and religion; a thorough awareness of the roles of material culture, sensual experience and the importance and symbolism of plants and animals to ritual and religious practices and ideologies, and the way that these can be explored through archaeological evidence and ethnographic analogy.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students completing this unit students will:

  • gain knowledge of previous academic definitions and discussions of ritual and religion and of some of the key thinkers involved and will acquired an understanding of models of ideology and practice for ritual and religious activities;
  • be able to evaluate the archaeological evidence for ritual and religious practices and ideologies in different periods and regions and the interpretations that can be drawn from that evidence;
  • have familiarity with the archaeological evidence for ritual and religious practices and ideologies in different periods and regions, and the interpretations that can be drawn from that evidence.

Teaching Information

Taught over 8 weekends (x8 all day lectures, x8 all day field trips)

Assessment Information

  1. One 3,000 word essay (33.37%);
  2. One 30 minute assessed seminar presentation (33.37%);
  3. Excavation Notebook 1 (16.63%);
  4. Excavation notebook 2 (16.63%).

Reading and References

Bell, C. 1992. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bell, C., 1997 Ritual :perspectives and dimensions. Oxford : Oxford University Press

Bowie, F. 2000. The Anthropology of Ritual. Oxford: Blackwell

Bradley, R. 2005. Ritual and Domestic Life in Prehistoric Europe. London: Routledge.

Kreinath, J., Snoek, J. and M. Stausberg (eds.) 2006. Theorizing Rituals, Issues, Topics, Approaches, Concepts. Leiden: Brill.

Insoll, T. 2004. Archaeology, Ritual, Religion. London: Routledge

Merrifield, R. 1987. The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic. London: Batsford.

Rappaport, R.A. 1999. Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.