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Ralph Merrifield 
The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic
First Edition 1987    
Hard Back with Dust Jacket.

The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic Ralph Merrifield


This book was the product of Merrifield’s ground-breaking research which put archaeology and folk magic firmly on the agenda for archaeologists.  Merrifield says:  “The recognition of undoubted ‘ritual deposits’ in the South Cadbury and Danebury hillforts…has gradually made the ritual practices of the pre-Roman Iron Age a respectable subject for academic enquiry”.


 “All who have any interest in that wide field of human thought, aspirations and fears, covered by such terms as ‘religion’, ‘magic,’ and the more derogatory ‘superstition,’ will be fully aware that it has produced immense activity that must have left almost as many traces in the archaeological record as any of the basic human activities that are  concerned with satisfying hunger, cion structing shelter, or providing defence against enemies…”


About the Book

‘Like all human activities, ritual customs, intended  to gain advantage or avert disaster by supernatural means, have left their mark on the archaeological record.  Yet archaeologists are often reluctant to recognise evidence of behaviour that has no obvious material purpose. Even where they realise that something unusual has occurred, they will put forward every other possible explanation in terms of accident or functional utility, however improbable.


For the first time, Ralph Merrifield systematically looks at the evidence for European ritual from prehistoric times to the present day. In examining different kinds of ritual, superstition and magic -  whether animal sacrifice, offerings to earth and water, spells and charms, or antidotes to witchcraft -  he shows how common patterns of activity have continued with little alteration over the centuries. Through fundamental changes of religious belief -  from primitive animism to developed paganism, from paganism to  Christianity, from traditional Catholicism to Protestantism, and even from religious faith to scientific rationalism -  the same kids of simple ritual have survived to give comfort and a sense of security.  


Profusely illustrated, this provocative and readable study will not only be required reading for archaeologists at all levels will also appeal to all those interested in folklore and the oddities of human behaviour.


Genre: Archaeology, Folklore, Human Behaviour- Non-Fiction

Book Type: Green covered boards hard back book with gold lettering on spine.

Publisher: Book Club Associates by arrangement with B.T. Batsford Ltd, 4 Fitzhardinge Street, London W1H 0AH

Edition:  First edition 1987 BCA

Out of Print and only a few copies available online.

Size: 16cm x 25cm

Number of pages:  224 Pages  8 chapters

Illustrations: 58 black and white illustrations and 8 Line Drawings



List of Illustrations


Ritual and the archaeologists

Offerings to earth and water in pre-Roman and Roman times

Rituals of death

From Paganism to Christianity

Survivals, revivals and reinterpretations

Written spells and charms

Charms against witchcraft

The ritual of superstitions: recognition and potential for study


Notes and References



More about Ralph Merrifield   (22 August 1913 – 9 January 1995)

Ralph Merrifield was hailed as ‘the father of London’s modern archaeology.’  He worked for forty years in the museum service and was deputy director of the Museum of London is one of the leading authorities on Roman London.  Apart from the Second World War, when he served as RAF intelligence officer in south-east Asia, Ralph Merrifield spent his working life as a museum archaeologist, first in Brighton and then in London. When he retired he was deputy director of the Museum of London and it is on Roman London (on which he first published in 1965) that he is recognised as a worldwide authority. His London, City of the Romans. Published by Batsford and the University of California Press, was hailed ( as can be seem from some of the reviews quoted below) as an outstanding work. As an archaeologist, Mr Merrifield has also had an eye for the unusual, and travels to Ghana, China and Japan increased his interests in comparative ritual and magic. He has always – even in retirement -  kept in close touch with field archaeologists and current excavations.  


Other books by Ralph Merrifield to collect or add to your collections

The Roman City of London 1965 Benn (London)

Roman London 1969 Frederick A. Praeger (New York)

A Handbook to Roman London 1973 Guildhall (London)

The Archaeology of London 1975 B.T. Batsford (London)

London: City of Romans  1983 B.T. Batsford (London)

The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic 1987 B.T. Batsford (London)


‘The Use of Bellarmines as Witch-Bottles’, Guildhall Miscellany, no 3, February 1954, offprint.
‘A Charm Against Witchcraft’, Country Life, June 23rd 1955, pp1612-3.
'Witch-Bottles and Magical Jars', Folklore, 1955, vol LXVI, pp195-200.
with Norman Smedley, ‘Two Witch-Bottles from Suffolk’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, vol XXVIII, 1958-60, pp97-100.
‘Folklore in London Archaeology – Part 2’, London Archaeologist, 2 (5), 1969, pp99-104.



Dust Jacket: Clean with excellent colouring. Slight rubbing or bumping to most edges and corners. Anything significant will be mentioned separately.

Covers:  Green boards with gold lettering on the spine. Covers are clean, bright with darker signs of wear and scuffing to the outer edges.

Binding: Leaning but binding within is tight with occasional guttering showing through.

Spine: Wear to the edges. No sun fade.  

Pages.  All pages complete. Some light spotting to extreme outer edges and front and rear free end papers. Overall pages are clean and bright.

Book Lovers Guides offers you a selection of rarer books, those increasingly difficult to find, with few or no copies available on the internet.  Books, pamphlets and magazines are pre-owned and pre-loved showing some signs of use. Dust Jackets are graded separately. Photos are included to help you judge the condition.


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