Archaeology of Religion and Belief

Module code: AR3605

Religion, belief, and ritual are important aspects of the human experience and pose exciting philosophical and methodological challenges which get to the heart of our discipline. We will address this head on from theoretical, anthropological, and archaeological standpoints. 

The topics of this module are wide-ranging in time and space, drawing on literature both inside and outside of our field. We will begin with a consideration of some of the theoretical issues concerning religion and belief. We will ask questions such as:

  • What is religion anyway?
  • Why do archaeologists often prefer the term ritual?
  • Why are sacred and profane often set up as separate and binary oppositions?

We will move on to consider how religion has been identified and discussed in archaeology, including interrogating our own cultural attitudes and assumptions. You will learn about ancestors, relics, and rock art whilst consider case studies from shamanism to mangoes. You will also learn about how religion shapes the landscape from pilgrimage routes to sacred space, as well as death and burial, and the topic of religious change.

Learning material for this module includes recorded lectures, briefings on the assessments, and live module chats. By the end of the module you will demonstrate a sound grasp of theoretical and methodological issues relating to the study of religion within archaeology, and have gained familiarity with a range of specific archaeological case studies, practising your critical analysis skills through the assignments. This module is assessed through two essays which you can choose from a range of options according to your interests.

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