Rites of Passage and Other Rituals in the Life Histories of Objects

Lars Fogelin, Michael Brian Schiffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In the last few decades, archaeologists have increasingly studied the material expression of religion. At the same time, they have recognized that some objects are animate in ways similar to people. Building on previous research that combines studies of religion, object agency and behavioural perspectives, we present an approach that focuses on the variety of rituals, especially rites of passage, in which objects participate over the course of their life histories. Occurring in societies at all levels of organizational complexity, rites of passage offer archaeologists an opportunity to contribute to the anthropology of ritual and an understanding of the ways that some objects take on, or are given, attributes of life. More subtly, by comparing the rites of passage of objects and the people who interact with them, we can assess differences in the specific qualities of object and human agency. These approaches may help us to orient the search for archaeological evidence of rites of passage as well as to interpret enigmatic deposits such as caches, hoards and offerings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)815-827
Number of pages13
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 12 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Archaeology


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