Sacrifice is one of the most common manifestations of human religious thought and behavior, yet archaeology has only recently begun to devote significant attention to the practice. This article reviews the diverse ways in which archaeologists have studied sacrifice and how work might proceed in the future. Both animal and human sacrifice are considered, along with the question of whether these two manifestations of ritual killing are significantly distinct. After examining how sacrifice can be identified in the archaeological record, the review outlines important new developments in bioarchaeology and zooarchaeology that facilitate study of the geographical origin of victims, lifestyle, and health prior to sacrifice, preparations for sacrifice, methods of ritual killing, and postmortem treatment. Proceeding beyond the mechanics of the practice, the article discusses how archaeologists can study sacrifice in its social context as well as its spatial and temporal dimensions.


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