Grave Expectations: Burial Posture in Popular and Museum Representations
The Public Archaeology of Death - Howard Williams
Sian Mui [+]
Durham University (postgraduate research student)
Laying out the dead body in an extended and supine position is very much a taken-for-granted practice in the contemporary western world, and it is frequently assumed to be the universal standard posture for the corpse. As we expect corpses to be laid out extended and supine, this portrayal is widely replicated and perpetuated in art, popular media and museums. This chapter reflects on the reproduction of corpse postures in two seemingly very different contemporary environments: film/TV portrayals and museum reconstructions. Contending that our idea of the “ideal” burial position is historically and culturally rooted in the trajectories of burial cultures in Western Europe, this chapter discusses the role of cultural expectations in informing the visual imagination surrounding mortuary practices, and explores the methodological and interpretive implications of such expectations in both academic and public contexts.