ARCH08029 2019 The Archaeology of Death

General Details

Full Title
The Archaeology of Death
Transcript Title
The Archaeology of Death
N/A %
Subject Area
ARCH - Archaeology
ESCI - Environmental Science
08 - NFQ Level 8
05 - 05 Credits
Start Term
2019 - Full Academic Year 2019-20
End Term
9999 - The End of Time
Frances Lucy, Shirley Markley, Sam Moore
Programme Membership
SG_SAPPL_H08 201900 Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Applied Archaeology SG_SAPPL_K08 201900 Level 8 Honours Degree Add-on in Applied Archaeology

This course will examine various aspects of the human experience of death as evidenced in the archaeological record. It is not period specific but rather the themes chosen for discussion will draw on examples from different periods in time and different countries. The module will develop an appreciation of mortuary archaeology, encouraging critical reflection on the importance of the contexts of theory and practice. It examines various aspects of mortuary practise from different periods and applies theoretical approaches to the study of death.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module the learner will/should be able to;


Demonstrate knowledge of different attitudes to and beliefs about death as evidenced in the archaeological record.

Demonstrate familiarity with anthropological and ethnoarchaeological approaches to death in other cultures.

Summarise and critique archaeological interpretations of burial and death related rituals from relevant literature.


Appraise the shifting relationship between the living and the dead over the course of prehistory and early history


Demonstrate ability of researching various aspects of death in archaeology.


Express archaeological data and ideas concerning Death through both oral and written formats.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

This module will be delivered full-time This will include lectures, and a site visit augmented by independent learning and directed learning. This approach is expected to address student learning needs. Supplementary reading will be supplied throughout the course

Module Assessment Strategies

This module is 100% Continuous Assessment.

The continuous assessment will involve two assignments where students are required to research and write two 2,500‑word essays and deliver a 15 minute presentation. One essay is from a list provided by the tutor and the other is a choice of the student on an aspect of mortuary archaeology that is approved by the course tutor, which also forms the basis for the student's presentation. These assessments will demonstrate the student's ability to critically evaluate aspects of the Archaeology of Death

Repeat Assessments

Repeat Continuous Assessment

Module Dependencies


Indicative Syllabus

Exploring the difficulties observed in the material record of mortuary practise through the case study of the Ibn Fadlan text on the Rus Viking Burial on the Upper Volga. 

Ritual theory and rites of passage with a focus on rites of separation, transition and incorporation through the works of Hertz, Van Gennep and Turner.

Anthropological and ethnographical aspects of death with a focus on the problems highlighted by Ucko. This also explores ideas on cremation, inhumation, excarnation and other forms of dealing with cadavers. 

Grave goods and what they may or may not tell us about society, religion and individuals.

Society, Status and Burial is explored and how status is often lavishly expressed through complex mortuary rites and display but how this may not always be evident in the archaeological record..

Age and death is examined by defining what a child might be, along with considerations of old age. Burial no 30(IV) 'Tara Boy' at Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara is used as a case study.

Gender and burial is another theme associated with mortuary rites and how 3rd sex individuals or problems with interpretation of gender 

Monumentality and the dead, and places of the dead.are other topics that are examined along with graveyard surveys.

Coursework & Assessment Breakdown

Coursework & Continuous Assessment
100 %

Coursework Assessment

Title Type Form Percent Week Learning Outcomes Assessed
1 Essay on particular theme Continuous Assessment Essay 40 % Week 9 1,3,5,6
2 Presentation of individual research topic Continuous Assessment Assessment 20 % Week 13 1,2,3,4,5,6
3 Essay Individual research topic relating to death Continuous Assessment Essay 40 % Week 15 1,2,3,4,5,6

Full Time Mode Workload

Type Location Description Hours Frequency Avg Workload
Group Learning Flat Classroom Lectures and seminars 2.5 Weekly 2.50
Independent Learning UNKNOWN Self Study 4.5 Weekly 4.50
Total Full Time Average Weekly Learner Contact Time 2.50 Hours

Required & Recommended Book List

Required Reading
2013-06-06 The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial (Oxford Handbooks) OUP Oxford
ISBN 0199569061 ISBN-13 9780199569069

The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial This Handbook reviews the state of mortuary archaeology and its practice with forty-four chapters focusing on the history of the discipline and its current scientific techniques and methods. Written by leading scholars in the field, it derives its examples and case studies from a wide range of time periods and geographical areas. Full description

Required Reading
2003-07-02 The Archaeology of Death and Burial The History Press
ISBN 0750932767 ISBN-13 9780750932769

Archaeology of Death and Burial

Required Reading
1961-07-15 The Rites of Passage University Of Chicago Press
ISBN 9780226848495 ISBN-13 9780226848495

Birth, puberty, marriage, and death are, in all cultures, marked by ceremonies which may differ but are universal in function. Arnold van Gennep (1873-1957) was the first anthropologist to note the regularity and significance of the rituals attached to the transitional stages in man's life, and his phrase for these, "the rites of passage," has become a part of the language of anthropology and sociology.

Recommended Reading
2005-11-24 Archaeology of Identity: An Introduction Routledge
ISBN 0415197465 ISBN-13 9780415197465
Recommended Reading
2009-12-01 The Archaeology of the Dead (Studies in Funerary Archaeology) Oxbow Books
ISBN 1842173561 ISBN-13 9781842173565

Henri Duday is Director of Research for CNRS at the University of Bordeaux. "The Archaeology of the Dead" is based on an intensive specialist course in burial archaeology given by Duday in Rome in November 2004. The primary aim of the project was to contribute to the development of common procedures for excavation, data collection and study of Roman cemeteries of the imperial period. Translated into English by Anna Maria Cipriani and John Pearce, this book looks at the way in which the analysis of skeletons can allow us to re-discover the lives of people who came before us and inform us of their view of death. Duday throughly examines the means at our disposal to allow the dead to speak, as well as identifying the pitfalls that may deceive us.

Module Resources

Non ISBN Literary Resources

Parker Pearson, M. 2003 The archaeology of death and burial. 930.1 PAR

Downes, J. and Pollard, T. 1999 The loved body's corruption: archaeological contributions to the study of human mortality.

Journal Resources

Montgomery, J. 2000. Ibn Fadlan and the Rusiyyah. Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 3: 1–25.
Ucko, P.J. 1969. Ethnography and archaeological interpretation of funerary remains. World Archaeology 1: 262--‐80

URL Resources

Other Resources


Additional Information