• Blog bodies: Mortuary archaeology and blogging

      Meyers, Katy; Williams, Howard; Michigan State University ; University of Chester (Landward Research, 2014-04-30)
      Mortuary archaeology - the study of past beliefs and practices surrounding dying, death and the dead using archaeological theories, methods and techniques - is a rich, diverse and growing field of research that incorporates, and extends beyond, bioarchaeology (osteoarchaeology) in its scope (Parker Pearson 1999; Tarlow and Nilsson Stutz 2013a). This particular subfield has many dimensions, a global reach and the scope to study human engagements with mortality from earliest times to the present day. Mortuary archaeology is inseparable from other kinds of archaeology - it inevitably overlaps with material culture analyses, settlement studies and landscape archaeology. It incorporates many specialists scientific techniques used to analyse artefacts, bones and other materials retrieved from mortuary contexts. The archaeology of death also extends far beyond the study of mummified human cadavers and articulated and disarticulated skeletal remains (burnt or unburnt). It also involves: considering artefacts and ecofacts from mortuary contexts; the structure and arrangement of graves; burial chambers and tombs; a wide range of art, architectures, monuments and memorials to the dead. Mortuary archaeology incorporates both cemeteries and other spaces designed to commemorate the dead, the spatial relationships between mortuary locales and the evolving landscape in which they are situated. The archaeology of death and burial can be site-specific, or it can look within particular localities or regions. Likewise, it can look at single periods or they can chart the development and shifts in mortuary practice over many centuries and millennia. Taking these various points into account, it is evident that today’s mortuary archaeology not only has multiple dimensions and scales of analysis, but also many tendrils into, and explicit dialogues with, other disciplines. For instance, the archaeological and bioarchaeological investigation of death, burial and commemoration can involve close dialogue with cultural anthropologists as well as with social historians of death. Equally, mortuary archaeology shares and exchanges ideas and perspectives with: sociologists and theologians of death, dying and bereavement; studies of the representation and material culture of death; and memory by art-historians and architectural historians. Bearing these points in mind, for both prehistoric and historic eras, mortuary archaeology reveals increasingly new and fascinating insights into human engagements with mortality across time and space.