• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Archaeology
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Classics and Ancient History, Forensic Anthropology
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

The course investigates how and why people have, throughout most of human history, buried their dead. We will examine the origins of burial more than 20,000 years ago and discuss the social and ideological reasons for different treatments of the dead prior to, and during burial. We will explore topics such as gender, ancestor worship and sacrifice, and investigate how modern scientific techniques are also enabling archaeologists to identify patterns of human migration and interaction.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. explain the significant changes that occurred in human social and ideological behaviour implied by the emergence of human burial in the Late Pleistocene;
  2. assess the relevance of body placement and orientation in burials;
  3. explain the importance of various beliefs in the afterlife in defining treatment of the dead; and
  4. investigate and interpret the roles that certain aspects of society and culture such as status, rank, power, gender and kinship are ascribed in burial traditions and interpreted by archaeologists.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Tutorial tasks: Two short powerpoint presentations including discussion (1000 words maximum or equivalent) (20) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  2. Mortuary Analysis Task, 2000 words (40) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  3. Argumentative Essay, 2000 words (40) [LO 1,2,3,4]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures and 12 hours of seminars; and
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 6 units of 1000 level Archaeology (ARCH) courses or 6 units of Biological Anthropology (BIAN) courses, or with permission of the convener. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed ARCH2054 or ARCH6521.

Prescribed Texts

No prescribed text required




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $3120
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $4800
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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