• Dead Relevant: Introducing The Public Archaeology of Death

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Equinox, 2018-09-01)
      Introducing the ten chapters of the book which each explore different dimensions of the public archaeology of death, this introduction asks: why and how are the archaeologically derived traces of human remains and mortuary monuments “dead relevant”? In other words, how has mortuary archaeology, from catacombs to cremated remains, come to enthral and gain significance in con- temporary society, and how does it continue to do so? Considering the diversity of archaeological field investigation, curation and display in museums, contestation and dialogues between archae- ologists, stakeholders and descendent communities, and the publications and popular receptions of the archaeological dead in the arts, literature and media, as well as via ancient monuments and historic landscapes, the public archaeology of death is a vibrant field of future research.
    • Death’s diversity: the case of Llangollen Museum

      Williams, Howard; Evans, Suzanne; University of Chester (Equinox, 2019-01-01)
      Much of the debate regarding mortuary archaeology’s public interactions has centred on the ethics and politics of displaying articulated skeletal material and fleshed bodies. In contrast, multiple, fragmented, dislocated and cenotaphic mortuary traces which populate museums across the UK have escaped sustained attention. Local and town museums, and also the distinctive narratives required in Welsh museums, have also eluded consideration. This chapter explores how smaller museums create environments in which networks are created both with other memorial places and landscapes in the vicinity, and between discrete museum displays. This chapter focuses on one case study—Llangollen Museum—to present and inter- rogate how a diversity of mortuary material culture combine to create a mortuary network associated with local history, heritage and landscape in this distinctive North Welsh context.
    • Death’s drama: mortuary practice in Vikings Season 1–4

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Equinox, 2019-01-01)
      Inspired by later medieval sagas and Viking Age historical sources, but underpinned and enriched by archaeological evidence and themes, the History channel’s Vikings (2013–) is a unique drama series explor- ing the late eighth/early ninth century conflicts and culture of the Northmen, aimed at a global television audience. This chapter introduces the series and its varied portrayals of mortuary practice. From the por- trayal of the deaths of chieftains and those slain in battle to family members and children, I identify key archaeological themes behind the depiction of death. This prompts discussion of mortuary archaeology’s influence on popular perceptions of the Early Middle Ages, the programme operating as education, enter- tainment but also reflecting on present-day anxieties over the nature of human mortality.
    • Displaying the deviant: Sutton Hoo’s sand bodies

      Williams, Howard; Walsh, Madeline; University of Chester (Equinox, 2019-01-01)
      The interpretation of early medieval deviant burials has come to the fore in recent mortuary archaeology debates. Yet, critical discussion of how early medieval execution cemeteries are portrayed in museums and other media has received no critical attention. Using the prominent case study of Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, this chapter reveals the interpretative and ethical challenges inherent in narrating and visualizing later Anglo- Saxon judicial killing in the absence of well-preserved human remains, but instead through the recording and interpretation of carefully excavated “sand bodies.”
    • Envisioning Cremation: Art and Archaeology

      Williams, Howard; Watson, Aaron; University of Chester (Equinox, 2019-01-01)
      Focusing on artist’s impressions of early Anglo-Saxon cremations, we reflect on the potentials and chal- lenges of collaborations between artists and archaeologists to both convey the fiery transformation of the dead in the human past, and provide reflection on our society’s own engagement with mortality in which cremation has become a commonplace dimension. We show the potential of art to challenge pre-conceived notions and understandings of cremation past and present, positioning art as a key dimension of public mortuary archaeology.