ANTH 238: The Archaeology of Ritual and Religion

Credits 5
Quarter Offered
Distribution List
Social Sciences,
Academic Elective

This course provides a comprehensive overview of the theories, methodologies, and principles used in the examination of the origins and development of religious beliefs and practices ranging from the Paleolithic through Modern Period. Topics range from gender rites to rites of passage, from ritual feasting to ritual fasting, from normative practices to taboos, sacred landscapes to profane utterances. This class may include students from multiple sections. (Social Sciences, Elective)


  1. Explain the key theoretical frameworks which have been used to examine the development of religious beliefs and practices among Homo sapiens.
  2. Describe phenomenological, culturally-affirming, and socially-normative religious practices.
  3. Compare and contrast animistic and anthropomorphic belief systems.
  4. Identify the similarities and differences in religious beliefs between various cultural groups surveyed during the course.
  5. Explain the key anthropological theories associated with the development of hierarchical religious systems beginning in early agrarian societies.
  6. Demonstrate the distinctions between communal, domestic, and personal religious practices.
  7. Illustrate the concept of cultural diffusion and the role it plays in religious syncretism.