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date: 18 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The ‘unburied dead’ is a complex topic because the expression carries many different meanings. This chapter discusses the unburied dead from three perspectives: ‘people who are denied funerals’, ‘inaccessible corpses’, and ‘dead bodies on display’. The first category deals with persons who would be eligible for proper funerary treatment, but are refused their right because of circumstances related to their life or death. The second category comprises dead people whose corpses have disappeared as a result of crimes, wars, and disasters. The third category is about the exhibition of human remains and the divergent social responses which displayed bodies and bones can meet. Within each category, ethnographic and historic case studies illustrate some pan-cultural trends in people’s attitudes towards the unburied dead but also emphasize cross-cultural variation. Archaeologists need to consider treatment and material manifestations of the dead as culture-specific and cannot expect uniform archaeological signatures.

Keywords: corpse, exhumation, funeral, mourning, mine disaster, relics

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