Rites of Passage

Paul Garwood

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

Rites of Passage


Ritual in archaeology is usually explored as an undifferentiated kind of esoteric or ‘irrational’ action, opposed to utilitarian or ‘rational’ — a characterization that clearly approximates most closely to the luminal stage defined by van Gennep and Turner. It is therefore unsurprising that archaeological studies of ritual tend to emphasize ‘otherness’, heightened or extreme modes of expression and symbolic communication. Although archaeologists have become quite comfortable discussing ‘ritual’ in these narrow terms, they usually ignore the different characteristics and purposes of the rites at other stages of the ritual process. This article discusses rites of passage as journeys; rites of passage as technologies of person transformation; rites of passage, cosmic order, and classificatory schemes; power, sacred conquest, and rites of reaggregation; and themes in the archaeology of rites of passage.

Keywords: rituals; archaeology; journey; transformation; cosmic order; power; sacred conquest; rites of reaggregation

Article.  10789 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Historical Archaeology

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