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date: 24 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter evaluates the phenomenon of well-preserved bodies, analysing both the natural conditions and artificial methods through which decomposition can be inhibited. It moves between forensic accounts of the processes of preservation and social interpretations of these bodies, using three main case studies: the bog bodies of northern Europe, the ice burials of Pazyryk, and the mummies of Egypt. In each case, it discusses whether their remarkable preservation was an intentional aim of depositional practice or mortuary rites, and it explores the range of different ideological motives which might underpin them. It briefly reviews other techniques of preservation, before considering the particular power of these human remains in the present. The chapter concludes by evaluating the tensions surrounding their public display, and their key role in stimulating the archaeological and public imagination.

Keywords: preservation, bog bodies, evisceration, sublimation, mummification, embalming

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