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The Archaeology of Religious Ritual

Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2007.36:55-71. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org by Jawaharlal Nehru University on 11/14/12. For personal use only.

Lars Fogelin
Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Albion College, Albion, Michigan 49224; email: LFogelin@Albion.edu

Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2007. 36:5571 First published online as a Review in Advance on April 24, 2007 The Annual Review of Anthropology is online at anthro.annualreviews.org This articles doi: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.36.081406.094425 Copyright c 2007 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved 0084-6570/07/1021-0055$20.00

Key Words
structure, practice, power, symbolism

Archaeologists traditionally assumed that rituals were understood best in light of religious doctrines, beliefs, and myths. Given the material focus of archaeology, archaeologists believed that ritual was a particularly unsuitable area for archaeological inquiry. In the past 25 years, archaeologists have increasingly started to address ritual in their research. Some archaeologists with access to extensive historical or ethnohistorical sources continue to see rituals as the enactment of religious principles or myths. Other archaeologists have adopted a more practice-oriented understanding of ritual, arguing that ritual is a form of human action. In emphasizing ritual practice, archaeologists reject a clear dichotomy between religious and nonreligious action or artifacts, focusing instead on the ways that the experience of ritual and ritual symbolism promotes social orders and dominant ideologies.


Archaeologists studying religion often focus on ritual. The reason for this focus is straightforward. There is a widespread archaeological understanding that ritual is a form of human action that leaves material traces, whereas religion is a more abstract symbolic system consisting of beliefs, myths, and doctrines. This common understanding does not mean, however, that all archaeologists approach the study of ritual in the same way. Although many agree that ritual is a form of action or behavior, signicant differences can be found in how archaeologists conceive of the relationship between religion and ritual. Some archaeologists see religion as primary, with ritual enacting underlying religious beliefs. Others see ritual as primary. Here the symbolic meanings of rituals are downplayed; rather the specics of religious belief conform to rituals that lie at the heart of things. In both cases, archaeologists create a simple dichotomy between religion and ritual, belief and action. As such, the nowstandard anthropological debates concerning structure and agency are front and center in the study of ancient ritual and religion (Barrett 2001, Dobres & Robb 2000). Whichever perspective archaeologists employ, most recognize that a dialectic exists between ritual and religion; aspects of one are necessarily related to aspects of the other. Ritual elements can be used to infer belief systems, just as knowledge of the mythology of a particular society can be used to investigate its rituals. Generally an orientation toward either structure or practice guides archaeologists thinking about ritual. For the most part, archaeologists who emphasize the structural elements of religion focus on the symbolic aspects of ritual, often by using historical or ethnohistorical sources. In contrast, those archaeologists who emphasize ritual practice in their analyses tend to focus on the ways that material remains can inform on the actions and experiences of past ritual participants. That said, archaeological materials relating to religion and ritual are fragmentary.

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Some archaeologists who have only material remains to investigate ritual still employ structural assumptions concerning the primacy of myth and belief, whereas others who examine mythology or ethnohistory are also enthusiastic advocates of the ritual primacy over religion. Each of these different permutations of archaeological research on ritual has different interpretive strengths and weaknesses; each is discussed below. First, however, it is important to examine the foundational concepts in which archaeologists rely in their analyses. In studying ancient ritual, archaeologists have appropriated many of their foundational understandings from cultural anthropology, religious studies, and sociology. In the process, archaeologists have been forced to develop material implications from what are, for the most part, more intangible theoretical perspectives.


In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries an academic debate formed within religious studies over the primacy of religion or ritual. Whereas some argued for the historical primacy of ritual (Frazer 1955[1911], Robertson Smith 1969[1889]), others ar gued that myths preceded rituals (Muller 1967[1861]). For the most part, these debates rested on fanciful reconstructions of the distant past, with theoretical positions determining historical narratives. Archaeological data were kept out of it, and few archaeologists took up the challenge of sorting out the origins of religion and ritual (but see Mithen 1998, Tattersall 1998). Over time, religion and ritual have come to be understood in more dialectical terms, with historical primacy no longer serving as a proxy for importance (see Kluckhohn 1942). However, the old debates over myth and ritual serve to illustrate a central divide in the study of religion and ritual that exists to this day. Although no serious scholar in any discipline argues that ritual or



religion is completely determinative of the other, different scholars tend to emphasize one over the other. These differences in emphasis lead to important differences in approaching the study of religion and ritual.

Geertz (1973), from a structural perspective, argued that
[r]eligion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic. (p. 90)

The emphasis here lies on belief and the meaning of symbolsthe manner in which belief serves to instill in people a sense of where they belong in the universe. Rituals, in this conception, serve to enact or promote symbolic meanings in a format that can be easily understood by the masses. As phrased by Wallace (1966, p. 102), ritual is religion in action; it is the cutting edge of the tool . . . It is ritual that accomplishes what religion sets out to do. In this formulation, ritual is a form of human action determined or shaped by underlying religious views. Of particular importance to a structuralist perspective is the idea that religion is a particularly stable and long-lasting cultural phenomenon. If religion is a relatively stable phenomenon and ritual is the enactment of religious principles, then rituals must also be relatively stable over time. Thus, rituals are a particularly anachronistic element of human societies (Bloch 1977, 1986; Connerton 1989). Just as many Christians continue to use the King James Bible, many societies continue to engage in rituals that employ archaic speech or actions. This is perhaps best illustrated in Blochs (1986) classic discussions of boys circumcision ritual among the Merina

in Madagascar. Bloch demonstrates that the content and form of the ritual has been unchanged for almost two centuries, despite its shift from a small-scale village puberty rite to a large-scale ritual central to Merina identity. Because religion is a particularly stable social phenomenon, it can also be used as a means of retaining valuable social information over the long term. It is this property of ritual upon which cultural materialists (Harris 1977; Lansing 1991; Rappaport 1968, 1979) and their archaeological progeny (Cove 1978, Minc 1986, Sobel & Bettles 2000; see also Scarborough 1998) seized in their analyses. For example, Sobel & Bettles (2000) argued that methods for coping with winter food shortages are contained within ritual recitations of Klamath and Modoc myths of the northwest coast of North America. Ritually recited oral histories and folktales preserve survival strategies so that younger generations can employ them when famine strikes. The danger in encoding environmental information in oral traditions is that myths can become corrupted through repeated retelling. Thus, mechanisms must be developed that preserve the integrity of ritual storytelling. Sobel & Bettles discuss elaborate strategies that the Klamath and Modoc employ to make sure that their myths do not change over time. Ritual recitations of famine myths are performed only in winter (when the potential for hunger is immediately present), three people who know the story must be present at the recitation to check for accuracy, and children are not allowed to recite the stories. These ritual proscriptions serve to keep the content of the myths intact over multiple generations. The anachronistic and invariant elements of ritual t well within archaeological approaches to ritual that employ historical and ethnohistorical sources. If religion is among the most stable and long-lasting cultural phenomena, then ethnographic, ethnohistoric, and historic accountseven those that postdate the archaeological period being studied by several centuriesare a legitimate source for the study of ancient religious practices.
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Furthermore, given the richness of the symbolic, mythic, and doctrinal information available in these sources, it is not surprising that archaeologists who have a more structural understanding of religion tend to focus on these sources. Given the difculty of determining the meaning of symbols in purely prehistoric contexts (Fogelin 2007, Hayes 1993), assuming stability of religion over the long term is a convenient research strategy. Recent trends in the anthropology of religion, however, have questioned these more simple formulations of historical memory.

Some anthropologists and religious historians advocate for the primacy of ritual practice in the dialectic with religion. These scholars emphasize the creative or revolutionary aspects of ritual. Rituals are not seen as preserving or enacting stable sets of religious beliefs, but rather rituals construct, create, or modify religious beliefs (Bell 1992, 1997; Humphrey & Laidlaw 1994). People constantly choose to remember, forget, or recreate elements of their religion through ritual practices (Connerton 1989, Hobsbawm & Ranger 1983). In archaeology this perspective has been employed in the works of Bradley (1991, 2002, Bradley & Williams 1998), Rowlands (1993), and others (Chesson 2001, Jonker 1995, Meskell 2002, Pauketat 2001, Van Dyke & Alcock 2003). Although specic rituals may remain the same over long periods of time, their meaning for society is constantly recontextualized. People transform and change underlying religious beliefs through the creation and practice of rituals. Rather than focus on stable meanings of ritual actions, practice theorists emphasize the experiential aspects of ritual and the effects of ritual on the social relations between ritual participants. As such, practice approaches tend to focus on ritual change and what ritual does rather than on what it means, although it is important not to overplay this point.
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If rituals enact religious principles, following a structural perspective, then all rituals should be religious or at least religious rituals should constitute a fairly distinct category. However, by placing the stress on ritual, practice theorists have a different problem. Sports, theater, and other activitieswhat Bell (1997, Ch. 5) labels ritual-like activitiesare difcult to distinguish from religious ritual. Bells use of the term ritual-like belies an interest in maintaining a separation between religious and secular rituals while recognizing the difculty, if not impossibility, of doing so. From a practice perspective, Bell (1997, Ch. 5) identies six characteristics that rituals and ritual-like activities exhibit to varying degrees. Bell is clear that these characteristics are not exhaustive, nor are the characteristics limited to religious ritual. The characteristics are as follows. Formalism: Rituals often employ more formal, or restricted, codes of speech and action than people use in everyday life. Traditionalism: Rituals often employ archaic or anachronistic elements. Invariance: Rituals often follow strict, often repetitive, patterns. Rule-governance: Rituals are often governed by a strict code of rules that determine appropriate behavior. Sacral symbolism: Rituals often make reference to, or employ, sacred symbolism. Performance: Ritual often involves public display of ritual actions. Ritual, from this perspective, is more a process than an event (Bell 1992, Humphrey & Laidlaw 1994). Certain actions are, or become, ritualized; they become more formal, traditional, invariant, etc. That is, ordinary actions assume greater meaning and signicance. Although not strictly required by the theoretical perspective, much of the literature on practice theory emphasizes the ways that ritualization promotes the development of relationships of power (Bell 1992, Comaroff 1985, Ortner 1989). By focusing on the role

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of ritual in forming, perpetuating, or resisting power relationships, practice theorists downplay the importance of symbolism in favor of analyses that concern the ways people harness symbolism to achieve specic ends. Thus, the specic meaning of a symbol is less important than the manner in which it is deployed and the goals of the people who deploy it. Likewise, some archaeologists emphasize how the experience of ritual creates, reafrms, or challenges dominant social orders (Bradley 1998, DeMarrais et al. 1996, Fogelin 2006, Inomata 2006, Inomata & Coben 2006, Lucero 2003, Moore 1996).


One of the earliest questions of archaeologists who studied religious ritual was how to identify materials and locales that could be considered religious. As will become clear below, many archaeologists now feel that this question is, at a basic level, awed. That said, archaeologists have long referred to any artifact or feature that was strange, aberrant, or inexplicable as religious, the assumption being that religion consists of those things that have no functional value or are just plain odd (Hodder 1982, p. 164; Renfrew 1994). Despite recent criticisms of trying to label things as religious or not, the desire by early pioneers in the archaeology of religion and ritual to develop more precise denitions is understandable in the contexts in which they were working. The recent resurgence of interest in ritual by anthropological archaeologists can be traced back to Renfrews pioneering work at the Phylakopi Sanctuary on the Island of Melos in Greece (Renfrew 1985; see also Barrett 1991, Carmichael et al. 1994, Garwood et al. 1991). Here Renfrew attempted to establish specic criteria to evaluate whether a specic architectural complex was a cult center or sanctuary. With this goal in mind, Renfrew (1985, p. 19) developed a list of material correlates that typically character-

ize the practice of ritual and compared it with his archaeological assemblage. These archaeological characteristics of ritual included sacriced plants or animals, a location in either special buildings or geographic locales, and distinct architectural elements (e.g., pools, benches, and alters). In the end, Renfrew concluded many of the characteristics of religious ritual were present and that the structure he was investigating was a cult sanctuary. I do not doubt Renfrews identication of Phylakopis cult center. What I nd interesting are the underlying views that Renfrew brings to his research. Despite his focus on the material remains of a ritual practice, his understanding of religion could be described best as structural (Renfrew 1985, p. 12, italics in original).
The archaeologist . . . cannot observe beliefs: one can only work with material remains, the consequences of actions. In favorable cases . . . these remains are the result of actions which we can plausibly interpret as arising from religious belief.

Renfrew provides an example of a structural view of religion that begins with and centers on ritual. Renfrew correctly notes that many rituals are not religious. For Renfrew, then, the main goal of his criteria is to develop methods to exclude those material consequences of ritual that are not religiously motivated. Renfrew accepts that his criteria will tend to exclude domestic and other small-scale rituals (Renfrew 1985, pp. 2122). For Renfrew this loss is acceptable if it allows for the archaeological identication of at least those rituals that are unquestionably derived from religious beliefs. Other archaeologists are less willing to exclude the fringes of ritual. In contrast with Renfrew, other archaeologists of a more structuralist bent accept that ritual and religion are more expansive and less clearly denable than has been tra 1999, Insoll 2004). ditionally accepted (Bruck To accommodate this position, structuralist
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archaeologists are forced to expand the breadth of religions inuence on everyday lives. By rejecting the Durkheimian (1915[1995]) distinction between the sacred and profane, these structuralist thinkers begin to equate religion and culture. This perspective can be found most clearly in Insolls recent discussions of religion (Insoll 2004, p. 22).
The more we look, the more we can see

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religion as a critical element in many areas of life above and beyond those usually consideredtechnology, diet, refuse patterning, housing. All can be inuenced by religion; they are today, why not in the past? Religion can be of primary importance in structuring life into which secular concerns are tted, the reverse of the often-posited framework.

One can clearly see an element of truth to this argument. Simply because some action is economically rational does not necessarily mean that it is not also religiously motivated. However, from this perspective, religion seems to be everywhere and all pervasive in nonwestern societies. The problem with this perspective is the growing recognition (noted by Insoll 2004, p. 17) that some societies, even traditional societies, have only a limited interest in things religious (Barth 1961, Douglas 1982, Kemp 1995). The separation of church and state may be a modern, western notion, but it is a mistake to assume that people in other societies were or are necessarily ruled by their religious beliefs any more, or less, then are Europeans or Americans. The centrality of religion in human society can be expected to be highly variable and assumptions of its universal importance highly suspect. The expansiveness of Insolls view of religion is partially the product of his structural view of religion itself. Following Otto (1950), Insoll (2004, p. 150) argues that archaeologists must recognize that elements of the archaeology of religions are metaphysical by de60 Fogelin

nition. Unfortunately, with much of the archaeology of religions we will never get at its essence no matter how long we boil the pot, because it is in the mind, it dees rationality, and . . . it will remain elusive. Whereas Insoll rejects Renfrews reliance on the distinction between the sacred and profane, he persists in relying on a structural understanding of religion. When combined, these two views lead to a degree of pessimism concerning the potential for archaeologists to study religious rituals successfully. Others who are interested in domestic or other small-scale rituals celebrate the idea that religious and secular rituals are not distinct or clearly identiable (Bradley 2005, Walker 1999). Rather than seeing this as a problem, these archaeologists are interested in the process whereby a seemingly ordinary action becomes ritualized. Rather than seeing rituals as either religious or secular, archaeologists of this sort view as worthy of study the gray area between the two.
Once we reject the idea that the only function of ritual is to communicate religious beliefs, it becomes unnecessary to separate this kind of activity from the patterns of daily life. In fact, ritual extends from the local, informal and ephemeral to the public and highly organized, and their social contexts vary accordingly. (Bradley 2005, p. 33)

In a detailed study of ritual in prehistoric Europe, Bradley (2005) intentionally explores the blurred areas between religious rituals, secular rituals, and everyday life. In one brief discussion, Bradley examines the difculties archaeologists have had in deciphering the role of a type of earthen enclosure (Vierekschanze) in Neolithic central Europe. These structures blend ritual, domestic, and even industrial characteristics in ways that have frustrated attempts at understanding them. One of these structures, M seck e Zehrovice in Bohemia, blends ritual structures and metalworking (Bradley 2005, pp. 2123; Venclov a 1998). Relying on

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ethnographic accounts of metalworking, Bradley argues that the transformative practices of metalworking typically rely on magic, ritual, and restricted knowledge (see Schmidt & Mapunda 1997; see also Dobres 2000). Traditionally metalworking was a ritual act, even if it resulted in the production of utilitarian objects. Thus, the question is it religious? is viewed as fundamentally awed. Unlike the position advocated by Insoll, Bradley rejects both the structural view of religion and the distinction between sacred and profane. Metalworking is both sacred and profane. Sacredness does not adhere to any object or phenomena in particular, but is created through an objects use or performance in specic contexts, often tied metaphorically to an objects mundane or domestic role (Bradley 2005; see also Ortman 2000, Plunket ed. 2002, Tilley 1999).

the United States and Europe began to work on developing new methodologies for the interpretation of rituals as forms of human action.

Behavioral Archaeology
Among the rst to examine ritual as action in the United States was Walker in his studies of witchcraft in the American Southwest (Walker 1996, 1998, 1999). Following the principles of behavioral archaeology, Walker dened his subject matter as ritual behavior and its attendant ritual objects as material processes comprised of people interacting with artifacts (Walker 1998, p. 246). Walker explicitly argued against a simple division between utilitarian/nonutilitarian artifacts. Rather, he argued that the ritual aspects of artifacts are a product of their use in a ritual contextthat normal, everyday artifacts take on special ritual signicance based on ritual use during the life history of the artifact. In particular, Walker investigated kratophanous violence, the intentional destruction and discard of ritual objects. By carefully investigating the context in which objects were deposited, Walker argued that it is possible to identify those objects, or people, that were the recipients of kratophanous violence. Walker argued specically that evidence for extreme postmortem violence against certain individuals, structures, and artifacts was evidence for the ethnohistorically known ritual treatment of witches in the American Southwest. In addition to Walkers behavioral approach to sacricial ritual, many other archaeological studies of sacrice, votive deposits, and offerings have also been conducted by other archaeologists (Bradley 2005; Hill 1995, 2003; Kunen et al. 2002; Lucero 2003; Marcus 1998; Osborne 2004). Of particular importance to the archaeological study of ancient ritual is the commendable rigor and nuance that Walkers (1998, 1999, 2002; see also Appadurai 1986) lifehistory approach brings to the question is it religious? It allows for artifacts to be
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Archaeologists do not necessarily have to develop a theory of mind or symbolic exegesis to recognize that sequences of deposits and variability within those deposits can reveal ritual and nonritual activities. Rather, they need to recognize that ritual embodies behaviors as much as symbols. (Walker 1998, p. 296)

Until recently, most archaeologists viewed religion in structural terms: that religion consisted of belief, doctrine, and mythology. Ritual, if it was considered at all, was decidedly secondary. Given this understanding, it is not surprising that archaeologists argued that religion was not a productive eld of research (Binford 1965, Hawkes 1954; in contrast see Fritz 1978). This perception began to change with the advent of more practice-oriented approaches to the anthropology of religion. Archaeologists had long recognized that the archaeological record was created by human actions in the past; they now recognized that ritual could also leave material traces as well. With this new insight, archaeologists in both

considered both utilitarian and religious depending on the questions, or contexts, being investigated. In this sense, the methods and conclusions of behavioral archaeology are surprisingly similar to research that relies on practice theory.

Experiential Approaches to Ritual

In contrast to the behavioral emphasis on taphonomy, archaeologists who rely on practice theory have focused attention on the way in which ritual was experienced by people in the past (Bradley 2000; Fogelin 2003, 2004, 2006; Howey & OShea 2006; Inomata 2006; Inomata & Coben 2006; Moore 1996; Smith & Brooks 2001; see also Tilley 1994 for a phenomenological approach to experiential archaeology). A particularly robust example of the experiential approach is presented by Moore (1996) in his study of pyramid complexes in coastal Peru. He carefully examined the size, elevation, and layout of pyramid complexes, paying close attention to the actual and perceived size of the pyramids from the viewpoint of the people standing below them. He concluded that a variety of architectural tricks were employed in the construction of the pyramids to increase their grandeur. In turn, this grandeur served to promote the power of those in charge of the rituals performed on top of the structures. On a more pragmatic level, Moore noted that given the great distance between the ritual participants on the pyramids and the spectators below, the rituals performed must have required large movements and limited vocalizations because it would have been exceptionally difcult for the audience to see or hear what was occurring on top of the pyramids. As in Moores emphasis on architecture of power (Moore 1996; see also Fox 1996), archaeologists who focus on the experiential elements of ritual often emphasize the ways that rituals serve the interests of authority and resistance to authority. In his work on early Buddhist Monasteries in South India, Fogelin (2003, 2006) examined the spatial organiza62 Fogelin

tion of ritual architecture to demonstrate that different layouts promoted rituals that alternately served monastic or lay Buddhist interests. At those religious centers most closely associated with Buddhist monasteries, ritual spaces were organized so that an individual could stand between the central symbolic focus (a large hemispherical mound referred to as a stupa) of the space and devotees who were forced to face him or her. This layout promoted leadership roles for monks in ritual observances. In contrast, ritual centers favored by the laity placed the stupa at the center of a large courtyard, eliminating the potential for any individual to stand between the ritual focus and all those who were engaged in ritual around it. If any individual attempted to place themselves physically as intermediaries, the audience could simply walk to the other side of the stupa and ignore the presumptive ritual leader entirely. Thus, different architectural layouts of religious centers promoted ritual experiences that favored either monastic or lay-Buddhist interests. Both behavioral and experiential approaches to the archaeology of ritual downplay, if not exclude, investigations of symbolism. Rather, both tend to focus more on the functions of ritual, often in terms of legitimizing existing social orders. This does not mean that archaeologists who employ these approaches are uninterested in symbolic meaning, but only that they tend to be more conservative in their use of it. Where strong historic or ethnohistoric sources are available, even archaeologists who emphasize ritual practice will use them (see Fogelin 2006, Walker 1998). However, the strong emphasis on human action in these approaches places lesser value on symbolic understandings of past ritual.

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Many archaeologists, myself included, have criticized those archaeologists who focus on symbolic analyses (Fogelin 2007, Howey & OShea 2006, Insoll 2004, Renfrew 1994,

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Walker 1998). I now believe that I was mistaken in many of my early criticisms. Rituals do, at times, enact deeper religious beliefs through complex symbolic actions. If religion and ritual truly inform one another, archaeologists can only benet from investigations into both sides of the dialectic. Where written sources describe religious beliefs, mythologies, and symbolism, a structural approach to ritual is fairly straightforward. However, there is no reason, a priori, to assume that prehistorians cannot study ancient symbolism and belief. The question remains, however, how best to study symbolism within the material connes of archaeological research. If symbols are organized in complex systems, as Geertz (1973) argues, then knowledge of some aspects of the symbolic system could be used to infer other parts. Archaeologists might even identify a key symbol (Ortner 1973), one that serves as a central element of ancient ritual practices. Furthermore, studies of ancient symbolism need not focus solely on the symbols themselves but can infer symbolic meanings of rituals from the material remains of rituals themselves. Archaeologists can use structural regularities in the relationship between ritual and religion to investigate symbolism and belief in the past, even in the absence of historical or ethnohistorical sources.

als of his attendantssome potentially sacriced as part of the mortuary ritual (Emerson 1997, Pauketat 2004). Relying on ethnohistoric sources and detailed iconographic analyses, Brown argues for a different interpretation, that the assemblage is the retelling of a specic myth common in the Midwest (Brown 2003, p. 96).
Led by a falcon hero, the heroes, four in number, game with the representatives of death and the netherworld (Hall 1997). Ultimately losing their heads, the heroes pass into temporary oblivion. In time the son or sons/nephews of the falcon hero avenge the death of their ancestors by seizing the head from the custody of death.

Enactments of Meaning
Perhaps the most common approach to the archaeological study of ritual consists of using historic or ethnohistoric sources as a guide to the interpretation of archaeological remains. Browns (2003; see also Brown 1997, Hall 1997) analysis of a burial assemblage within Mound 72 at Cahokia in the American Bottom provides a good example of the strengths of this approach. Mound 72 consists of several burials, one laying on top of a cape of 20,000 marine shell beads (Fowler et al. 1999). Another burial lies directly below the former, with several others burials surrounding them. Traditionally, this assemblage has been interpreted as an elite burial surrounded by buri-

This myth is made materially manifest in a mortuary tableau at Mound 72. Brown identies the gures in the myth through examinations of the iconographic elements found within each burial. The central gure, laying on the beaded cape, is the avenging son of the falcon hero, laying directly above the defeated gure of death. The surrounding burials consist of the falcon hero and his teammates. Furthermore, all the gures within the tableau are constructed of secondary burials with the exception of one: the primary burial of an individual in the position of the falcon hero. For Brown, it is this gure, not the gure on the beaded cape, for whom the mythic tableau was constructed. Thus, traditional interpretations of the mortuary assemblage, in the absence of the symbolic associations, led to the incorrect identication of the only elite burial within the assemblage as that of an attendant. The strength of Browns interpretation rests on his use of structural assumptions concerning the guiding force of religious thought (the falcon hero myth) in directing ritual action (the interment of people within Mound 72). For Brown, then, the ritual actions at Mound 72 are best explained as ritual enactments of symbolic meaning rather than as simple statements of ritual power. Browns analysis also demonstrates the value of ritual
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Among the most developed subjects within the archaeology of ritual are studies of mortuary ritual. Archaeologists have long recognized that the interment of human remains is typically associated with rituals, often understood in terms of rites of passage (Turner 1966, Van Gennep 1960). Given the large number of studies of mortuary ritual and the existence of several excellent reviews on the subject (Pearson 2001, Williams et al. 2005), I have chosen not to discuss mortuary archaeology in any signicant detail. Approaches to the study of mortuary ritual have many of the same elements as studies of ritual generally. Where some archaeologists focus on the iconographic and symbolic meaning of grave goods, others focus more on the processes of interment of the body and the ritual practices that accompanied interment. In general, archaeologists have gradually moved away from studies that see mortuary ritual as passively reecting society toward studies that see mortuary ritual as actively constructing social orders.

perspectives in the study of mortuary practices (see Mortuary Ritual). Ethnohistorical and historical sources inform numerous studies of ancient ritual, particularly in the new world (e.g., Bauer 1992, Brady & Prufer 2005, Sekaquaptewa & Washburn 2004, Hayes-Gilpin & Hill 1999, Fowles 2005). These studies rely on the greater ability of myth, art, and other forms of religious expression to provide guidance on the interpretation of material remains of ritual. One can, however, investigate symbols archaeologically in other ways, by exploiting other structural understandings of symbols.

Cognitive Archaeology
A different approach to structural regularities in ritual is promoted by cognitive archaeologists (Renfrew & Zubrow 1994, Mithen 1998). Cognitive archaeologists focus on the physiological processes of the human brain and the implications of these processes on human cognition. Unlike other structural explanations of ritual, cognitive archaeology actually posits the specic cause of sym64 Fogelin

bolic regularities but fails to illuminate specic meanings of the ritual symbols. In this sense it blends the experiential and symbolic approaches discussed thus far. Whereas the meaning of a symbol is downplayed in cognitive archaeology, the experience of creating and working with symbols is well explored. Lewis-Williams (2002b) has argued that rock art often depicts the effects of the shamanic trance state on the human brain (Pearson 2002, Price 2001, Whitley & Keyser 2003). When going into a trance state, whichever means are used to achieve it, several common physiological stages occur (LewisWilliams & Dowson 1988). Initially, people entering a trance state begin seeing entoptic visionsickering or wavy geometric lines and dots visible with eyes open or shut. In the next stage, the mind of the person in the trance state tries to make sense of the entoptic visions by associating them with things that are familiar. A wavy line may be seen by the person in a trance as a horse or mountain. Finally, in the third stage shamans feel as if they are passing or ying through a tunnel into another world. At this stage, odd groupings of entoptic visions may be blended in the mind of a shaman, resulting in images of animals with human heads or other fantastical imagery. The bulk of Lewis-Williamss research concerns rock art in southern Africa (2002a), but his discussion of the rock art in Lascaux, an Upper Paleolithic cave site in France, illustrates his overall perspective (Lewis-Williams 1997, 2002b). He argues that spatial movement into the cave graphically represents the shamanic movement into trance. Thus, initially the cave has a substantial amount of geometric and animal motifs. Moving inward the images depict elements representing movement through a tunnel, nally reaching the deepest portions of the cave where blended and fantastic images occur. For Lewis-Williams, the cave paintings of Lascaux are a record of shamanic rituals practiced 17,000 years ago in Europe. Although LewisWilliamss interpretation does not decipher the specic meaning of the bulls, horses, and

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other painting in Lascaux, it does offer an explanation for the creation of the paintings and identify the practice of a specic form of ritual, shamanism, in the distant past.

Symbols and Power

A nal approach to the study of ritual symbolism concerns issues of power and the creation of dominant ideologies. Whereas much of this research relies on structural assumptions concerning the dominance of religion and myth in ordering society, some of it focuses more on how symbols are appropriated and manipulated to achieve specic ends (e.g., Inomata 2001, Lucero 2003, Mills 2004, Pauketat & Emerson 1991, VanPool 2003). The former approach assumes that the role of ritual is enacting long-lasting cosmological orders that legitimize the ruling elite. The latter blends with experiential approaches to ritual discussed earlier, with ritualized symbols as points of contention between rival claimants to power. In either case, research in this vein asks who controls or benets from the production, display, and performance of ritual symbolism? The main differences concern archaeologists views on the stability or dynamism of ritual symbolism. An important element of these studies for all archaeological research on ritual is that symbols are also material things, that ideology is materialized in objects (DeMarrais et al. 1996; Robb 1998, 1999). Once materialized, these symbolic objects can be controlled and manipulated in much the same way that any other nonsymbolic object can. The ruling elite can, for instance, limit access to material symbols in much the same way they can limit access to food or other goods. Furthermore, the manipulation of a material symbol can act to change the underlying meaning of the same symbol. The construction of a sacred building by a king is an avenue toward sacred power; limiting access to the same building afrms that sacred power is restricted to a select few. Ritual, in this formulation, is also form of materialized ideology.

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Pauketat & Alt (2004; see also Pauketat et al. 2002, Pauketat and Emerson 1991) productively employ these insights in an examination of a cache of 70 stone axe heads at the Grossman site, a small village in the uplands above Cahokia. Through careful examinations of the placement, material, and morphology of the axe heads, Pauketat & Alt argue that the cache was constructed as part of a ritual intended to promote solidarity among the diverse social groups coming under the dominion of Cahokia. Different people, representing different social groups, placed axe heads into the cache sequentially, signifying their unity. As stated by Pauketat & Alt (2004, p. 794), the ritual burial of the axe-heads at Grossman might have signied the coming together of the Cahokian order.

Approaches to Ritual Symbolism

If symbols are material things that can be manipulated and used by people in the past, then archaeologists should be able to infer at least some of their meaning through careful examinations of their material context. These studies can be heavily informed by historic and ethnohistoric sources or even by generalized processes of the human brain. The material context of symbols can also be used to infer the manner in which they were employed to reafrm dominant ideologies. Whatever approach is used, deciphering the symbolic meanings of past rituals, particularly in absence of historic or ethnohistoric sources, remains among the most challenging and underdeveloped aspects of the archaeology of ritual.

The insights of cognitive archaeology and practice-centered archaeologywhether emphasizing symbolism or human actionare important advances in the study of ancient ritual, but at least part of their success comes from avoiding the issue of symbolic meaning.
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Rather, both tend to emphasize more functional aspects of past ritual. These approaches do provide rich accounts of ritual activities in the past, but it is hard to deny that interpretations that also account for symbolic meaning would be even richer. When it comes to symbolic meaning, archaeologists still rely primarily on ethnohistoric and historic sources to guide their interpretations. Future research on the archaeology of ritual needs to develop new, robust approaches to the interpretation of symbolic meaning in ritual. In the past few decades archaeologists have made great strides in deciphering cosmological principles. Now archaeologists must develop methods for identifying how cosmological or religious concepts are materially enacted or communicated through ritual. A rst step toward this end would be ethnoarchaeological studies of ritual (see Jordan 2003). Ethnoarchaeological research could begin to

address the material implications of ritual and ritual symbolism that are often lacking in the existing anthropological literature. Few archaeologists strictly follow either a structural or practice-oriented approach to the archaeology of ritual. More typically, archaeologists employ insights from both perspectives in their research. Given the dialectical nature of religion and ritual and the fragmentary evidence of ancient ritual, blended approaches are both necessary and successful. This does not mean that archaeologists have overcome the contradictions between a structural and agent-oriented understanding of ritual but only that they have productively sidestepped the problem. Future archaeological research on ritual must begin to address these issues more explicitly, if only to identify regularities better in the relationship between religion and ritual that can be exploited for new archaeological research.

SUMMARY POINTS 1. Archaeologists often assume that ritual is a form of human action that leaves material traces, whereas religion is a more abstract symbolic system consisting of beliefs, myths, and doctrines. The dialectic between ritual and religion allows each to inform on the other. 2. Some archaeologists view religion as primary, with ritual as a means of enacting the embedded meanings of religious belief. Others see ritual as primary; the specics of religious belief systems are created to conform to rituals practices. 3. Archaeologists who see religion as primary see the goal of the archaeology of ritual as the identication of underlying meaning of ritual acts. Studies of this sort often make extensive use of historical and ethnohistorical sources. 4. Archaeologists who view ritual as primary investigate the ways that the experience of ritual served to create, reafrm, or contest social orders, often viewed in terms of authority and subordination. 5. Archaeologists have also productively studied ancient symbols as material objects, gaining insight into the function of symbols, if not the meaning of them.

The author is not aware of any biases that might be perceived as affecting the objectivity of this review.
66 Fogelin

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An excellent historical review of theories of ritual; the second half of the book emphasizes practice theory

Details an experiential approach to the study of ritual architecture through diachronic examinations of monuments and landscapes

An effective demonstration of the value of studying small-scale, domestic rituals and ritualization in prehistoric contexts

Argues that ideology is materialized in things that can be employed in creating, reafrming, or contesting dominant ideologies


An inuential early article that argued archaeologists could not effectively study prehistoric religion

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An example of cognitive archaeology, focused on the role of shamanism in the creation of rock art in southern Africa


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A seminal work arguing that archaeologists can effectively identify the material remains of religion and ritual

Introduces a behavioral approach to the archaeological study of ritual, with a focus on ritual deposition, violence, and witchcraft

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Walker WH. 2002. Stratigraphy and practical reason. Am. Anthropol. 104:15977 Wallace AFC. 1966. Culture and Personality. New York: Random House Whitley DS, Keyser JD. 2003. Faith in the past: debating an archaeology of religion. Antiquity 77:38593 Williams SR, Rakita GFM, Rakita FM, Buikstra JE, eds. 2005. Interacting With the Dead: Perspectives on Mortuary Archaeology for the New Millennium. Gainesville: Univ. Press Fla.

Insoll T, ed. 2001. Archaeology and World Religion. London: Routledge Kyriakidis E, ed. 2007. The Archaeology of Ritual. Los Angeles: Cotsen Inst. Archaeol. In Press Whitley D, Hayes-Gilpin K, eds. 2007. Belief in the Past. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. In press

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Annual Review of Anthropology

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Volume 36, 2007

Prefatory Chapter Overview: Sixty Years in Anthropology Fredrik Barth p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 1 Archaeology The Archaeology of Religious Ritual Lars Fogelin p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 55 atalhyk in the Context of the Middle Eastern Neolithic Ian Hodder p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 105 The Archaeology of Sudan and Nubia David N. Edwards p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 211 A Bicycle Made for Two? The Integration of Scientic Techniques into Archaeological Interpretation A. Mark Pollard and Peter Bray p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 245 Biological Anthropology Evolutionary Medicine Wenda R. Trevathan p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 139 Genomic Comparisons of Humans and Chimpanzees Ajit Varki and David L. Nelson p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 191 Geometric Morphometrics Dennis E. Slice p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 261 Genetic Basis of Physical Fitness Hugh Montgomery and Latif Safari p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 391 Linguistics and Communicative Practices Sociophonetics Jennifer Hay and Katie Drager p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 89


Comparative Studies in Conversation Analysis Jack Sidnell p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 229 Semiotic Anthropology Elizabeth Mertz p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 337 Sociocultural Anthropology Queer Studies in the House of Anthropology Tom Boellstorff p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 17 Gender and Technology Francesca Bray p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 37 The Anthropology of Organized Labor in the United States E. Paul Durrenberger p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 73 Embattled Ranchers, Endangered Species, and Urban Sprawl: The Political Ecology of the New American West Thomas E. Sheridan p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 121 Anthropology and Militarism Hugh Gusterson p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 155 The Ecologically Noble Savage Debate Raymond Hames p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 177 The Genetic Reinscription of Race Nadia Abu El-Haj p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 283 Community Forestry in Theory and Practice: Where Are We Now? Susan Charnley and Melissa R. Poe p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 301 Legacies of Derrida: Anthropology Rosalind C. Morris p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 355 Indexes Cumulative Index of Contributing Authors, Volumes 2836 p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 407 Cumulative Index of Chapter Titles, Volumes 2836 p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 410 Errata An online log of corrections to Annual Review of Anthropology articles may be found at http://anthro.annualreviews.org/errata.shtml

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