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Theoretical aspects of burial archaeology


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Bachelor’s degree obtained, admission to the RMA-programme.


The burial of a person, be it an emperor or a peasant, is one of the most radical moments in the life of small and large communities. In the words of Marcel Mauss it is a ‘total social event’ in which the fundamental values, norms and social relations of a community become visible, are at stake and are represented, reproduced and transformed.

The variability in archaeological remains related to burial rites is immense, ranging from the pyramids to small pits with some cremated remains. However theory, necessary to interpret these remains, can help to prevent the submersion into the sea of data. In recent years several topics related to burial rites were dealt with by an international community of scholars, such as personhood and individuality, life cycles, creating memories, ethnic identity, burial rhetoric and the creation of sacred fictions, the perception of the body.
In this course a number of topics on the basis of burial evidence from a number of societies of varying complexity will be examined.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the recent theoretical debates concerning burial archaeology;

  • Ability to evaluate and discuss recent research topics in burial archaeology;

  • Knowledge of the variability in burial rituals in prehistoric and historic Europe and the Mediterranean;

  • Writing skills;

  • Presentation skills.

Ects distribution

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Assignment involving research (2 ects).


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA time schedule.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


Assessment deadline

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

Will be presented in advance.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. F.C.J.W. Theuws.