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date: 16 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The material remains of mortuary practices, given the deliberateness of their placement and patterning, would appear to render them the most legible of archaeological matters. The recognition of our mortality has been a hallmark of our species; we do not bury bodies, we bury personas. Further, given the immediacy of our emotional and sensuous responses to death, we might assume that empathy and symbols grounded in shared experience would serve as powerful interpretive tools in our studies of the mortuary practices, even of cultures of the deep past. Yet, archaeologists have come to understand that categories of identity and status (e.g. gender, class) and categorical qualities of their material markers are not only contested within cultures, but are highly variable across cultures. This chapter seeks to further examine the implications of recent appreciations of (1) the polysemy and cultural embeddedness of symbols, (2) the cultural crafting of emotions, and (3) the cultural training of the senses for archaeological interpretations of alternative cultural understandings of death and mortuary practices.

Keywords: symbol, ritual, lived experience, emotions, senses, interpretation

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