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date: 19 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the observation that identities are renegotiated through the mortuary process, which anthropologists have demonstrated consists of a three-stage ritual transformation of the dead. The implication of this observation for archaeologists is that the identities of the deceased underwent a transformation in identity during the very mortuary process that provides archaeologists with their evidence. The chapter suggests that funerary transformations often assist in projecting an idealized version of the deceased towards another state of existence (the afterlife, heaven, etc). Thus, mortuary transformations are often important in achieving an idealized form of existence after death. Yet some are excluded from achieving these idealized forms of identity following death due to their status in life, and their mortuary practices vary accordingly. In outlining this argument, the chapter critically reviews the use of the concept of social persona when interpreting mortuary remains, suggesting that different social personae may be brought to the fore in different phases of the mortuary process.

Keywords: funerary rites, mortuary process, identity transformation, idealized and desired identities

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