Archaeology and Ritual: Case Studies from European Prehistory


The presence of ritual practice in the archaeological record is rich with evidence of offerings, transformation, representation and construction. Yet it is often (falsely) cited as an excuse archaeologists use when they are unable to explain an archaeological feature or social practices. In this course we will engage more positively and deeply with the idea of ritual in the archaeology of prehistoric Europe. This will include consideration of agricultural practice, domestic activities, burial, offerings and art. It includes a one day fieldtrip to the UNESCO World Heritage archaeological sites of Avebury and Bath.

Programme details

Session 1

Introduction to the Course

Session 2

An archaeology of ritual : theory and practice

Session 3

Earliest Prehistory: ritual as mobile and partial

Session 4

Early Prehistory: a ritual of monuments, material culture and place

Session 5

Later Prehistory: fluid rituals and liquid states

Session 6

Ritual in Context: preparation for the fieldtrip

Session 7

Ritual in Context: fieldtrip to Avebury and Bath

Session 8

Ritual in Context: fieldtrip to Avebury and Bath

Session 9

Fieldtrip Review: ritual in action

Session 10

A new archaeology of ritual: theory and practice

Session 11

Ritual in context: practice and conversations

Session 12

Course review


* Please note that the cost of all fieldtrips is including in the course fee.


Description Costs
Programme Fee (No Accommodation - inc. Tuition, Lunch & Dinner) £935.00
Programme Fee (Standard Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1570.00
Programme Fee (Standard Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1330.00
Programme Fee (Superior Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1685.00
Programme Fee (Superior Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1430.00


Ms Fay Stevens


Fay Stevens is an experienced lecturer in archaeology and academic literacies at Oxford OUDCE, OUSSA and other UK and International Universities. She specialises in material culture studies, ethics, theory, prehistory, landscape archaeology and writing in the disciplines. Fay is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Notre Dame (U.S.A.) in England and Visiting Lecturer for University of Winchester and University of London.

Course aims

This course aims to provide an introduction to the study of ritual by focusing on rich evidence from prehistoric Europe, engaging with a wide range of case studies and varying interpretations and ideas about the presence of ritual in the archaeological record.

Teaching methods

All summer school courses are taught through group seminars and individual tutorials. Students also conduct private study when not in class and there is a well stocked library at OUDCE to support individual research needs.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

•          The key characteristics of the prehistoric archaeology of Europe through an investigation into ritual practice

•          Various approaches and techniques interpreting the archaeological record

•          The roles ritual plays in the construction of past societies

Assessment methods

Students are assessed during the summer school by either a 1500 word written assignment or a presentation supported by individual documentation. To successfully gain credit (10 CATS points) students should attend all classes and complete the on-course assignment. There is also a pre-course assignment of 1000 words set. Although this does not count towards credit, it is seen as an important way of developing a student's ideas and therefore its completion is mandatory.