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Anthropology Research Week Public Lecture: The Role of Ritual in the Evolution of Social Complexity

The Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University invites you to attend a free public lecture by noted anthropologist Professor Harvey Whitehouse, Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford.

Professor Whitehouse's work focuses on understanding the cognitive underpinnings of ritual and religion and the evolution of sociocultural complexity, and he is the co-editor of multiple books about cognition, religion, and ritual.  He will explore these subjects in his lecture.

Field research in anthropology has inspired some promising theories of ritual and its role in the emergence and spread of complex social systems. In recent years, efforts have been made to test some of those theories scientifically, for example using carefully controlled experiments to examine the effects of ritual frequency and emotional intensity on various aspects of group cohesion and cooperation. The results of this research have implications for the nature and spread of collective identities and on the structure and scale of social groups. To explore these implications, Seshat: Global History Databank was created, a massive storehouse of information about ritual, religion, social organisation, and warfare that will allow researchers to quantify patterns in world history and test competing theories of the forces driving sociocultural evolution.

The lecture will be followed by light refreshments. We hope you can join us.