• Class Number 3390
  • Term Code 3230
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Duncan Wright
    • Duncan Wright
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 21/02/2022
  • Class End Date 27/05/2022
  • Census Date 31/03/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 28/02/2022
    • Duncan Wright
SELT Survey Results

The study of ancient religion and ritual presents unique challenges to the archaeologist. In the absence of writing, religious ideas tend to be expressed indirectly and symbolically. Such manifestations of religion can be difficult to accurately interpret, however, doing so correctly offers exciting potentials for understanding prehistoric thoughts and beliefs. In this course we will examine origins and development of religion. We will survey archaeologies of world religions and determine the materiality of sacred and secular ritual expression. We shall explore rituals associated with death such as sacrifice, mummification and cannibalism; shamanistic practices as shown in rock art from Kazakhstan to cave art in France and Spain; the rise of "fertility cult" figurines from Czech Republic to Malta; totemic beliefs and ancestor worship in Torres Strait and ritual landscapes surrounding Stonehenge.

Learning Outcomes

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

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
1) Critically engage with central issues and debates within the archaeology of religion
2) Identify key markers of ritual and religion in the archaeological record
3) Formulate a systematic research project that targets a key aspect of ritual and religion

Field Trips

Optional field trip to St Peter and Paul's Cathedral, Goulburn (dependent on Covid).

Required Resources

See Wattle for details

See Wattle for details

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:
  • Written comments
  • Verbal comments
  • Feedback to the whole class, to groups, to individuals, focus groups

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Introducing archaeology of ritual and religion
2 The archaeology of superstition and magic
3 LECTORIALS 1&2: Ritual architecture
4 LECTORIALS 3&4: Ritual artefacts
5 Religious origins
6 World Religions Assessment 2
7 Sacred site to sacred landscape
8 Ritual as Window onto Alternate Ontologies
9 No lecture
10 Contemporary cosmologies
11 No lecture Assessment 1
12 Conclusions Assessment 3

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Design/ coordinate a mini tutorial (small group exercise) on a topic of student interest. 15 % 18/05/2022 1
2000 Word Analytic Essay 30 % 14/04/2022 2
3500 Word Research Report 55 % 27/05/2022 1,2,3

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 18/05/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1

Design/ coordinate a mini tutorial (small group exercise) on a topic of student interest.

a) Post discussion questions (x7, max. 200 words) and focused readings (x2) on Wattle 4 days prior to tutorial, (5%) and b) presentation of 10 minutes & coordinated discussion of 10 minutes (10%)

Assessment Task 2

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 14/04/2022
Learning Outcomes: 2

2000 Word Analytic Essay

Using the "Church Survey Template" provided on WATTLE, complete an archaeological assessment of St Peter's and Paul's Old Cathedral. 

This involves presentation of results with very little interpretation (i.e. covering desktop assessment - examining background information/ history; built heritage assessment - architecture/ infrastructure; artefact assessment - objects found underneath the Cathedral then brief interpretation of data). All of these sections have been colour coded in the attached template.

There is some flexibility in word count (30% either way). As long as all information is provided you are welcome to use dot points.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 55 %
Due Date: 27/05/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

3500 Word Research Report

During the course we will explore key themes and theories (i.e. moving beyond individual site assessments), relating to the archaeology of ritual and religion. Some will interest you above others. Pick one of these to discuss. Examples are:

a)    How might mortuary archaeology allow us to better understanding past belief systems?

b)  Is there evidence for borrowing between religions in the archaeological record?

c)     How might we understand (pre)historic ontologies using archaeology?

d)   Shamanic rituals have been observed in contemporary communities. Can these also be observed archaeologically?

OR something closer to your analytic essay – e.g.

a)  What might archaeology (as opposed to history) tell us about emergence and development of Christianity?

b)    How has material/ symbolic and iconographic elements within Christianity changed over time?

c)    A research theme of your choice - e.g. exploring the early history of Goulburn through religious architecture/ cemeteries etc

You should be ready to make a clear case, justifying your argument using relevant literature and case studies. 

Ensure you reference at least 15 academic papers (books/ chapters/ journal articles).

Word count - please keep to this (20% under, not over)

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

No submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date will be permitted. If an assessment task is not submitted by the due date, a mark of 0 will be awarded. OR Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information. In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service — including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy. If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes. Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
Duncan Wright

Research Interests

Duncan Wright

By Appointment
Duncan Wright

Research Interests

Duncan Wright

By Appointment
Duncan Wright

Research Interests

Duncan Wright

By Appointment

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