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Digging the dead in a digital media age — the University of Bath's research portal

Written from a variety of perspectives, its authors address the experience, effect, ethical considerations, and cultural politics of working with mortuary archaeology. Whilst some papers reflect institutional or organisational approaches, others are more personal in their view: creating exciting and frank insights into contemporary issues which have hitherto often remained 'unspoken' amongst the discipline.

Reframing funerary archaeologists as 'death-workers' of a kind, the contributors reflect on their own experience to provide both guidance and inspiration to future practitioners, arguing strongly that we have a central role to play in engaging the public with themes of mortality and commemoration, through the lens of the past. Spurred by the recent debates in the UK, papers from Scandinavia, Austria, Italy, the US, and the mid-Atlantic, frame these issues within a much wider international context which highlights the importance of cultural and historical context in which this work takes place.


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  4. Virtually Dead: Digital Public Mortuary Archaeology;
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You have no items in your shopping basket. All Rights Reserved. The contributors argue strongly that archaeologists have a central role to play in engaging the public with human mortality, mourning and commemoration, through the lens of the past.

Chapters explore a broad range of periods and types of mortuary data, from Iron Age chariot burials to 20th-century Danish cemeteries, from Mesolithic graves to the First World War dead. Other chapters investigate the significance and experience of displaying the dead in museums.


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  • Further contributions interrogate broader intersections between mortuary archaeology and contemporary society, including how we write about, visualise and engage the archaeological dead in contemporary society, both through academic publications and the media. My own contribution to the book explores the challenges of displaying cremated human remains in museums in the UK and Scandinavia. While some of our authors address these issues directly, others focus on their feelings of acting as an advocate for the dead: often finding themselves as a go-between for different community interests over ancient human remains.

    Archaeologists and the Dead: Mortuary Archaeology in Contemporary Society

    The volume also includes papers on how we display the dead, write about them or illustrate their stories. I believe archaeologists have a central role in improving the ways in which we deal with our own mortality, by engaging with difficult yet moving themes, through the fascinating lens of past lives.

    Unexpected facts in Austria, overdue stickers are attached to gravestones when the lease expires, and ossuaries were shut in the nineteenth century to prevent people using the skulls to predict winning lottery numbers are interspersed with engaging and sensitive discussion. Howard Williams and Melanie Giles have produced a book that will be of interest to professionals and general readers alike.


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