The fields of public and community archaeology have seen a burgeoning literature over the last decade, as archaeologists face a changing climate in which they work, new funding challenges and opportunities, and fresh pressures to ‘justify’ our existence. Public archaeology is not a new fad, it has been around for decades in varying guises. Yet mortuary archaeology faces a range of specific ethical and practical issues in terms of how we engage communities and the wider public in our research into death, disease, healthy and mortality.
What interests me is when public archaeology and mortuary archaeology collide: ‘public mortuary archaeology’. I regard this as an umbrella category, covering aspects of projects, entire projects, and groups of projects involving the study of dying, death and the dead in the human past and with direct public engagement and involvement at its core. This might be tangible, face-to-face and field-based, it might take place in labs, classrooms, museums, in the media, in academic and popular publications, or online. Public mortuary archaeology covers the study of archaeology’s public entanglements and activities with death in the past, present and future.
My attempts to explore these issues over the last decade have focused on field projects investigating mortuary contexts, museum displays of bodies and burials, and digital public mortuary archaeology. You can explore these articles yourself from the list of outputs below: many of which are available on my Academia.edu page and listed on this blog under ‘Publications‘:
Williams, H. and Giles, M. (eds) 2016. Archaeologists and the Dead, Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/archaeologists-and-the-dead-9780198753537?cc=gb&lang=en&
Giles, M. and Williams, H. 2016. Introduction: mortuary archaeology in contemporary society, in H. Williams and M. Giles (eds) Archaeologists and the Dead, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–20. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/618943
Williams, H. 2016. Firing the imagination: cremation in the modern museum, in H. Williams and M. Giles (eds) Archaeologists and the Dead: Mortuary Archaeology in Contemporary Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 293–332. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/618942
Williams, H. and Atkin, A. 2015. Virtually dead: digital public mortuary archaeology, Internet Archaeology 40. http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue40/7/4/index.html http://hdl.handle.net/10034/594441
Tong, J., Evans, S., Williams, H., Edwards, N. and Robinson, G. 2015. Vlog to death: Project Eliseg’s video-blogging, Internet Archaeology 39. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/554088; http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue39/3/toc.html
Meyers, K. and Williams, H. 2014. Blog bodies: mortuary archaeology and blogging, in D. Rocks-Macqueen and C. Webster (eds) Blogging Archaeology, E-book: Succinct Research, pp. 137-70. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/337528
Williams, H. 2009. On display: envisioning the early Anglo-Saxon dead, in D. Sayer. & H. Williams (eds) Mortuary Practices & Social Identities in the Middle Ages: Essays in Burial Archaeology in Honour of Heinrich Härke. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, pp. 170-206.
Simpson, F. & Williams, H. 2008. Evaluating community archaeology in the UK, Public Archaeology 7(2): 69-90.
Williams, H. & Williams, E.J.L. 2007. Digging for the dead: archaeological practice as mortuary commemoration, Public Archaeology 6(1): 45-61.