The ‘Invisible Dead’ at BABAO and the Death, Dying and Disposal Conference

Jay et al BABAO 2013

The ‘Invisible Dead’ Project team have been busy over the past few months, presenting or preparing conference papers. Most recently, Mandy Jay presented at the University of York for BABAO (British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology) and at the Death, Dying and Disposal 11th International conference at the Open University in Milton Keynes.

The BABAO (http://www.babao.org.uk) conference was held from 13th to 15th September and Mandy Jay’s presentation particularly focused on the database for the British material. To date nearly 15,000 individuals from around 2000 sites, ranging in date from the Neolithic until the end of the Roman period, have been recorded for Britain and both Mandy and Charlotte Roberts, who was also at the conference, met many people who were both interested in, and excited about, developing the database for future general access.

The Death, Dying and Disposal conference (attended by both Douglas Davies and Mandy Jay) had a more interdisciplinary focus and was held by The Association for the Study of Death and Society (ASDS) at the Open University in Milton Keynes from 5th to 8th September.  The meeting was an interesting opportunity to talk to professionals involved in contemporary issues surrounding death and the treatment of the body and Mandy presented a paper which focused on discussing how the project would be examining practices from prehistory which we might today find unusual, such as moving body parts from one place to another or depositing them in separate locations. The discussions that followed aimed to try and challenge current perceptions regarding processes of death and dealing with the corpse in antiquity and there were questions such as, “what does a Bronze Age cremation look like?”. As a project this also got us starting to think about how much, as archaeologists, we know about contemporary death and dying, for example how many people have visited a modern crematorium and seen and discussed what happens there?

Both papers were very well received and gave us lots to think about as we move forward with the project.  Graham Philip and Jennie Bradbury will be presenting at the BANEA annual conference (http://bit.ly/16Djpdq) in the new year and in the meantime we will keep posting on this blog and letting you know about the progress of the project.

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