Introduction: Ritual and Religion in Archaeological Perspective

Timothy Insoll

in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199232444
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

Introduction: Ritual and Religion in Archaeological Perspective


This article discusses the generally positive situation that exists in relation to archaeological approaches to ritual and religions. A ‘turn’ is also evident whereby serious consideration is being given to the materiality of ritual and religions, and what this might tell us about defining religion and religions, and reconstructing rituals and potentially (albeit often elusively) beliefs. This is vital for, often, archaeological consideration of ritual and religions remains underlain by assumption — that labels and definitions derived from other disciplines (religious studies or anthropology, perhaps) are ‘right’, and thus applicable to different contexts far removed geographically and temporally; whilst material culture might be treated as just ‘there’ instead of being interrogated as to how it symbolizes, represents, misleads, and informs the archaeologist attempting to explore the subtleties of ritual practice and religions. The archaeology of ritual and religions is a vast subject encompassing material of myriad configurations from diverse contexts, periods, and areas. This book illustrates this diversity, but is also indicative of the resonances that likewise exist across time in humanity's attempts to engage with those complex constructs we define as ‘ritual and religions’.

Keywords: ritual; religion; archaeology; materiality

Article.  2261 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Historical Archaeology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »