• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Archaeology
  • Areas of interest Archaeology

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

Other Information

The course will include field-trips.

Indicative Assessment

Design/ coordinate a mini tutorial (small group exercise) on a topic of student interest (for a total of 15%) comprising:
a)  Post discussion questions (x7, max. 200 words) and focused readings (x3) on Wattle prior to tutorial, (5%) and
b) presentation of 10 minutes & coordinated discussion of 10 minutes (10%)  Learning Outcome 1
Analytic essay, 2000 words, 30% (LO2)
Research Report, 3500  words (55%) Learning Outcome 1,2,3

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.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 34 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 22 hours of lectures and 12 hours of workshop and workshop-like activities.
b) 96 hours of independent student research, reading and writing
Where possible you should attend all lectures and tutorials, there will be material given out in these that you will not obtain elsewhere. Should you miss lectures it is critical that you listen to these on Wattle.

Prescribed Texts

Steadman, S. 2009. The archaeology of religion: Cultures and their beliefs in worldwide contexts. California, Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press

Preliminary Reading

Wesler, K. 2012. An archaeology of religion. Lanham: University Press of America
Insoll, T. 2009. Archaeology, ritual, religion. London, New York: Routledge
Insoll, T. (ed.) Oxford Handbook of The Archaeology of Ritual and Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press


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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2023 $3960
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $5820
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
2977 19 Feb 2024 26 Feb 2024 05 Apr 2024 24 May 2024 In Person View

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