CLAS/ARTH 4169/5169: The Archaeology of Religion

Spring 2017 
TR 3:30-4:45 pm
ENVD 120


Professor Dimitri Nakassis
Office:                HUMN 1B25
Office hours:     Tuesday Wednesday Thursday 11 am – 12 pm and by appointment
Phone:               (303) 492-8184


This course is an introduction to the archaeological study of religion, with a focus on the ancient Greek world. We’ll begin with a general introduction to Greek religion and its major archaeological correlates, then transition to more general archaeological and anthropological studies of religion. With these two areas covered, we’ll explore a series of case studies that will hopefully enrich our understanding of the ways to do an archaeology of religion.



Price = Simon Price, Religions of the Ancient Greeks (Cambridge 1999)
Pedley = John Pedley, Sanctuaries and the Sacred in the Ancient Greek World (Cambridge 2005)



  4169 5169
Class participation 20% 20%
Midterm exam (Week 6: 2/23) 20% 20%
Take-home final exam (5/11, 1:30–4:00 p.m) 20% 20%
Short reading responses (5) 15% 15%
Paper abstract 5% 5%
“Motel” paper (or research paper) 20%  
Research paper   20%


  • Class participation: you will be evaluated not only based on your attendance but also on whether you contribute to class discussion and the quality of your contribution. Students in the 5169 section will also give one short presentation to the class (on April 4th).
  • Five reading responses: over the course of the semester, you must write five short (about one page, single-spaced, 12 pt) responses to the readings. You must turn in your response at the start of class (I prefer a hard copy) to the readings assigned for that class. The reading responses aren’t pass/fail assignments; I’ll be evaluating them based on their quality. That is to say, I expect you to engage seriously with the readings; relate what you’ve read to what we’ve already learned, evaluate the arguments that the author is making, etc.
  • The midterm will be composed of short identifications and essays. There will be choice involved with each.
  • Everyone will write a paper, due on the last day of class.
    • Students in the 5169 section must write a research paper, about 15-20 pages double-spaced, on a topic related to the subject matter covered by the class.
    • Students in the 4169 section can write a research paper OR what I’m calling the “motel” paper, about 12-15 pages double-spaced. The “motel” paper is less structured and formal than a research paper.  It will imagine, sort of like the Motel of the Mysteries does, how future archaeologists might interpret a modern “secular” building (like a mall), activity (like bowling), artifact (like a decorative piece of coral) or artwork (like the Mona Lisa) religiously, but using a method (or methods) that you’ve been exposed to in this class.
    • The length of the papers are guidelines to indicate how involved I expect the papers to be. They are not requirements.
  • The final exam is scheduled for May 11, 1:30-4:30 pm; I’ll give you a take-home final that will ask you to answer two essays. I’ll distribute the final exam “script” (i.e., the questions) via e-mail and D2L 48 hours before the exam period. You’ll return your answers to me electronically (e-mail) by 4:30 pm on May 11th.


Academic Policies

Disability services

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to your professor a letter from Disability Services in a timely manner (for exam accommodations provide your letter at least one week prior to the exam) so that your needs can be addressed. Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities. Contact Disability Services at 303-492-8671 or by email at If you have a temporary medical condition or injury, see Temporary Injuries guidelines under the Quick Links at the Disability Services website and discuss your needs with your professor.

Religious observances

Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to deal reasonably and fairly with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance. In this class, (insert your procedures here). See the campus policy regarding religious observances for full details.

Classroom behavior

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Those who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, color, culture, religion, creed, politics, veteran's status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and gender expression, age, disability, and nationalities. Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records. For more information, see the policies on classroom behavior and the student code.

Discrimination and harassment

The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is committed to maintaining a positive learning, working, and living environment. CU Boulder will not tolerate acts of sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment or related retaliation against or by any employee or student. CU's Sexual Misconduct Policy prohibits sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, intimate partner abuse (dating or domestic violence), stalking or related retaliation. CU Boulder's Discrimination and Harassment Policy prohibits discrimination, harassment or related retaliation based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation or political philosophy. Individuals who believe they have been subject to misconduct under either policy should contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) at 303-492-2127. Information about the OIEC, the above referenced policies, and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment or related retaliation can be found at the OIEC website

Academic honesty

All students enrolled in a University of Colorado Boulder course are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of the institution. Violations of the policy may include: plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, lying, bribery, threat, unauthorized access, clicker fraud, resubmission, and aiding academic dishonesty. All incidents of academic misconduct will be reported to the Honor Code Council (; 303-735-2273). Students who are found responsible for violating the academic integrity policy will be subject to nonacademic sanctions from the Honor Code Council as well as academic sanctions from the faculty member. Additional information regarding the academic integrity policy can be found at


I will make announcements verbally in class and electronically via D2L and e-mail. It is your responsibility to check D2L and your University e-mail address on a regular basis.


Schedule (Subject to update)

Week 1

                Tuesday, 17 January        Course introduction

                Thursday, 19 January     Introduction to Religion

  • JD Eller, Introducing Anthropology of Religion (2007) 1-28 [all]

Week 2

                Tuesday, 24 January        Greek Religion

  • Price 1-10; Pedley 1-16 [all]
  • C Sourvinou-Inwood, “What is Polis Religion?” in The Greek City from Homer to Alexander, edited by O Murray and S Price (Oxford 1990), pp. 295-322 and “Further Aspects of Polis Religion,” Annali dell’Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli, Sezione di Archeologia e Storia Antica 10 (1988) 259-274 , reprinted in Oxford Readings in Greek Religion, edited by R. Buxton (Oxford 2000), pp. 13-55 [5169]

                Thursday, 26 January     Gods and festivals I

  • Price 11-46 [all]
  • R. Parker, On Greek Religion, ch 3 [5169]

Week 3

                Tuesday, 31 January        Gods and festivals II

  • Pedley 17-28 [all]
  • F Graf, "Pompai in Greece. Some Considerations about Space and Ritual in the Greek Polis" in R Hägg ed., The Role of Religion in the Early Greek Polis. Proceedings of the Third International Seminar on Ancient Greek Cult, organized by the Swedish Institute at Athens, 16-18 October 1992. (Stockholm 1996), pp. 55-65. [5169]

                Thursday, 2 February     Sanctuaries I

  • Price 47-66, Pedley 29-38 [all]

Week 4

                Tuesday, 7 February        Sanctuaries II: places

  • Pedley 39-56 [all]
  • F de Polignac, “Mediation, Competition, and Sovereignty: The Evolution of Rural Sacntuaries in Geometric Greece,” in Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred Space in Ancient Greece, ed. S. E. Alcock and R. Osborne (Oxford 1994), pp. 3-18 [5169]

                Thursday, 9 February     Sanctuaries III: buildings

  • Pedley 57-77 [all]
  • C Morgan, “The Evolution of a Sacral ‘Landscape’: Isthmia, Perachora, and the Early Corinthian State,” in Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred Space in Ancient Greece, ed. S. E. Alcock and R. Osborne (Oxford 1994), pp. 105-142 [5169]

Week 5

                Tuesday, 14 February     Sanctuaries IV: practices

  • Price 89-125, Pedley 78-99 [all]
  • R. Parker, On Greek Religion, ch. 5 [5169]

                Thursday, 16 February  Dedications

  • Price 67-88, Pedley 100-118 [all]
  • R Parker, On Greek Religion, ch. 2 [5169]

Week 6

                Tuesday, 21 February     Specific sanctuary histories

  • Pedley 119-204 [all, in groups]
  • Price 126-171 [5169]

                Thursday, 23 February

                                                Midterm exam

Week 7

                Tuesday 28 February      Motel of the Mysteries

  • D Macaulay, Motel of the Mysteries [all]

                Thursday 2 March           Archaeology of Religion

  • L Fogelin, “The Archaeology of Religious Ritual,” Annual Review of Anthropology 36 (2007) 55-71 [all]
  • C Barrett, “Archaeology of Ancient Religions,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion (2016) [5169]

Week 8

                Tuesday 7 March             No class

                Thursday 9 March           Renfrew’s approach

  • C Renfrew, The Archaeology of Cult (1985) 1-26 [all]
  • C Renfrew, “The archaeology of religion,” in The Ancient Mind: Elements of Cognitive Archaeology (1994) 47-54 [all]
  • C Renfrew, The Archaeology of Cult (1985) 361-391 [5169]

 Week 9

                Tuesday 14 March           The direct historical approach

  • J Marcus and K Flannery, “Ancient Zapotec ritual and religion: an application of the direct historical approach,” in The Ancient Mind: Elements of Cognitive Archaeology (1994) 55-74 [all]
  • G Hoffman, “Painted Ladies: Early Cycladic II Mourning Figures?” American Journal of Archaeology 106.4 (2002) 525-550 [all]

                Thursday 16 March        The ritual practice approach

  • JZ Smith, To Take Place (1987) 103-112 [all]
  • R Bradley, Ritual and Domestic Life in Prehistoric Europe (2005) 3-40 [all]
  • R Joyce, “What should an archaeology of religion look like to a blind archaeologist?” Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 21 (2012) 180-188 [5169]

Week 10

                Tuesday 21 March           No class

                Thursday 23 March        Material classes of evidence

  • M Gaifman, “Visual Evidence,” in The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 51-66 [all]
  • CE Barrett, “Material Evidence,” in The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 113-130 [all]
  • MD Stansbury-O’Donnell, Looking at Greek Art (2011) 154-163 [all]

Week 11

                SPRING BREAK

Week 12

                Tuesday 4 April                Early prehistory

  • Readings TBD

                Thursday 6 April             Mycenaean religion: the Cult Center

  • [all]
  • EB. French, “Cult Places at Mycenae,” in Sanctuaries and Cults in the Aegean Bronze Age (1981) 41-48 [all]
  • L Morgan, “The Cult Centre at Mycenae and the duality of life and death,” in Aegean Wall Painting: A Tribute to Mark Cameron (2005), 159-171 [all]
  • SR Stocker and JL Davis, “Animal Sacrifice, Archives, and Feasting at the Palace of Nestor,” in The Mycenaean Feast (Princeton 2004), 179-195 [5169]
  • L Bendall, “Fit for a King? Hierarchy, Exclusion, and Aspiration and Desire in the Social Structure of Mycenaean Banqueting,” in Food, Cuisine and Society in Prehistoric Greece (Oxford 2004) 105-135 [5169]

Week 13

                Tuesday 11 April             Continuity

  • C Morgan, “From Palace to Polis? Religious Developments on the Greek Mainland during the Bronze Age/Iron Age Transition,” in Religion and Power in the Ancient Greek World (1996) 27-57 [all]
  • C Sourvinou-Inwood, Review of B.C. Dietrich, Tradition in Greek Religion (New York 1986), Classical Review 39 (1989) 51-58 [all]
  • B Eder, “Continuity of Bronze Age Cult at Olympia? The Evidence of the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Pottery,” in Potnia (Aegaeum 22) (2001) 201-209 [5169]

               Thursday 13 April           Identifying religious buildings

  • J Shaw, Kommos: A Minoan Harbor Town and Greek Sanctuary in Southern Crete (2006) 40-50 [all]
  • J Hurwit, The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, and Archaeology from the Neolithic Era to the Present (1999) 161-165 [all]
  • J Shaw, Kommos IV.1: The Greek Sanctuary, Part I (2000) 669-731 [5169]
  • A Mazerakis-Ainian, “Early Greek Temples,” in A Companion to Greek Architecture (2016) 15-30 [5169]

Week 14

                Tuesday 18 April             Cult statues

  • T Scheer, “Art and Imagery,” The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 165-178 [all]
  • R Neer, The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture (2010) 71-103 [all]
  • J. Elsner, “Image and Ritual: reflections on the religious appreciation of classical art,” Classical Quarterly 46 (1996) 515-531 [all]
  • P Themelis, “Damophon,” in Personal Styles in Greek Sculpture (1996) 154-185 [5169]
  • K Lapatin, “New statues for old gods,” in The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations, (2010) 126-151 [5169]

Thursday 20 April           Votives

  • J Barringer, “Zeus at Olympia,” in The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations, (2010) 155-177 [all]
  • B Bergquist, “Feasting of worshippers or temple and sacrifice? The case of the Herakleion on Thasos,” in Ancient Greek Cult Practices from the Archaeological Evidence (1998) 57-72 [all]
  • C Morgan, “Ritual and Society in the Early Iron Age Corinthia,” in Ancient Greek Cult Practices from the Archaeological Evidence (1998) 73-90 [5169]
  • G Ekroth, “Altars in Greek Hero-Cults: A Review of the Archaeological Evidence,” in Ancient Greek Cult Practices from the Archaeological Evidence (1998) 117-130 [5169]

Week 15

                Tuesday 25 April             Art, myth, and ritual

  • K Junker, Interpreting the Images of Greek Myths (2012) 1-18 [all]
  • JB Connelly, Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece (2007) 165-195 [all]
  • A Klöckner, “Getting in contact: Concepts of human-divine encounter in Classical Greek art,” in The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations, (2010) 106-125 [5169]

                Thursday 27 April           Sculptural programs and religion

  • JM Barringer, Art, Myth, and Ritual in Classical Greece (2008) 1-7 [all]
  • R Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art (1998) 69-75 [all]
  • J Hurwit, The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, and Archaeology from the Neolithic Era to the Present (1999) 161-188 [all]
  • T. Hölscher, “Architectural Sculpture: Messages? Programs? Towards Rehabilitating the Notion of ‘Decoration,’” in Structure, Image, Ornament: Architectural Sculpture in the Greek World (2009) 54–67 [all]
  • JM Barringer, Art, Myth, and Ritual in Classical Greece (2008) 8-58 [5169]

Week 16

                Tuesday 2 May                 No class

                Thursday 4 May               Christianity in Greece

  • No reading; papers due

Finals week

Thursday 11 May           

  • Take-home final exam due (4:00 p.m)