by Mike Parker Pearson
This month’s quick review is of the book which was top of the reading list I set for my students when I gave a lecture about my research last semester.
It’s a real milestone text in the study of funerary practices, providing a great introduction to all areas using case studies from around the world and across time. The book has chapters on the excavation of human remains and what we can learn from the body, placing of the dead, and what tombs, cemeteries and sacred landscapes can tell us about societies. It also explores several themes commonly associated with funerary practices, power and status, kinship and gender, politics and memory. Parker Pearson looks at the human experience of death in all its myriad forms and what the archaeologist can learn from the way we treat the deceased, after all ‘The dead do not bury themselves but are treated and disposed of by the living’ (Parker Pearson 1999; 3).
For those interested in European churchyards and cemeteries, especially of the Victorian period, I especially recommend pages 11-17, 40-44, 47-50, 124-125, 181 and 195-197, but it’s an invaluable book all round! It’s well written, with an approachable style and so many fascinating case studies, including great illustrations and photographs.
There’s a preview available from Google Books, and there’s a PDF of pages 1-20 here. If your local library doesn’t have a copy they can be picked up pretty cheaply online both new and used, especially the 2003 paperback edition (e.g. here and here).