The archaeology of religious ritual

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

143 Scopus citations


Archaeologists traditionally assumed that rituals were understood best in light of religious doctrines, beliefs, and myths. Given the material focus of archaeology, archaeologists believed that ritual was a particularly unsuitable area for archaeological inquiry In the past 25 years, archaeologists have increasingly started to address ritual in their research. Some archaeologists with access to extensive historical or ethnohistorical sources continue to see rituals as the enactment of religious principles or myths. Other archaeologists have adopted a more practice-oriented understanding of ritual, arguing that ritual is a form of human action. In emphasizing ritual practice, archaeologists reject a clear dichotomy between religious and nonreligious action or artifacts, focusing instead on the ways that the experience of ritual and ritual symbolism promotes social orders and dominant ideologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAnnual Review of Anthropology
EditorsWilliam Durham
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 2007

Publication series

NameAnnual Review of Anthropology
ISSN (Print)0084-6570


  • Power
  • Practice
  • Structure
  • Symbolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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