Timothy Taylor

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


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Death is a broader subject within the archaeology of ritual and religion than recognizable funerary rites. The intersect between death and belief has resulted in many of the most significant surviving ancient finds, sites, and monuments, such as the bog bodies of North-western Europe, the Shanidar Neanderthal interments, the pyramids of Egypt, and the tombs of Queen Puabi and of the first emperor of China. Many significant ritual sites have a death-related aspect, as loci of human killing and the deposition of remains (causewayed camps, central European Kreisgrabenanlagen, the Aztec temples) while others were designed for ritualized activities that, though not primarily describable as religious, adumbrated a cosmology of life and death (the Roman Colosseum). This article discusses the anthropology and sociology of death, funerary archaeology, physical death outside the valedictory and funerary contexts (ritual killing, human sacrifice, endo- and exo-cannibalism, etc.), and materiality approaches and evolutionary aspects.

Keywords: anthropology; sociology; funerary archaeology; ritual; religion; physical death; materiality; evolution

Article.  8231 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology

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