The study of ritual behaviour as enacted throughout human evolution — and in more recent times — relies on archaeologists being able to adequately identify items likely to have been used in ritual practice. From these artefacts, and their distribution across space and time, we develop narratives surrounding the origins and importance of ritual behaviour to different human communities. It has been highlighted that the is tremendous overlap between artefacts traditionally assigned to ‘ritual’ behaviours and those utilised in the secular world of children. This presentation explores this overlap in artefact attributes through focusing on human and animal figurines, and whether it will be possible for archaeologists to disentangle secular child-related from ritual figurines. It will also discuss whether this separation is necessary if we are to gain further insights into ritual practices — and childhood — in the deep past. 

About the Presenter

Michelle C. Langley is an Associate Professor in the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution and Program Advisor for the Bachelor of Science (Archaeology) in the School of Environment and Science. Her research centres around the evolution and diversity of human behaviour which she explores through the study of artefacts made on hard animal materials – bone, tooth, antler, ivory, and shell. She is the author of 'A Record in Bone. Exploring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Bone and Tooth Objects' (2023, Aboriginal Studies Press) and has been involved in unveiling some of the earliest ornaments, bone tools, and shell artefacts discovered throughout the Australian and Southeast Asian regions. She also maintains research in Palaeolithic Europe and childhood archaeology, publishing in both specialist and overarching academic journals.


About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.


Otto Hirschfield Building (81)