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date: 07 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

We can no longer maintain that religion is a neglected area of archaeological discourse. Recent interest owes much to the post-processual recognition of the materiality of social life, though there is still disagreement about the extent to which belief and ritual are embedded in social action. Meanwhile, the classic structuralist trope that ritual systems are inherently conservative and that religious structure mirrors social structure has been seriously reconsidered within anthropology. As with many other areas, the special contribution of archaeology may well be its long time-depth, allowing ritual and social change to be studied over more than just a few generations. This chapter reviews several fundamental questions in the archaeology of belief and ritual: Why is it important to study religion? What are the problems in the archaeology of belief? Is the distinction between the sacred and the profane a useful one? What is the social role of religion?

Keywords: ritual, belief, religion, time, ideology, prehistory, analogy, performance

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