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Archaeological and historical evidence of bodysnatching in early eighteenth-century London
Robert Hartle

During 2011–15, the site of the ‘New Churchyard’ at Liverpool Street, London, was archaeologically excavated by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) for Crossrail Ltd. The municipal burial ground was established in 1569 and used until 1739. Among over 3000 excavated burials was a sand-filled and stone-topped coffin containing the skeleton of an unnamed individual aged c.16 years, dated to the early eighteenth century. These extremely unusual, perhaps unique, features were ostensibly measures designed to prevent bodysnatching, a practice documentary sources record occurred at the ground in 1717. In her seminal work, Death, Dissection and the Destitute, Ruth Richardson suggested the so-called ‘Corporation of Corpse-stealers’ was well-established in London by the 1720s. However, although bodysnatching for anatomical dissection during the mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth century has been extensively researched by both historians and archaeologists alike, the earlier years of the practice have been relatively neglected. Following a multidisciplinary approach, this chapter presents new documentary research (particularly drawing newspapers and apprenticeship, hospital, criminal and parish records) alongside the archaeological evidence from the New Churchyard. This approach facilitates a novel inquiry into the earliest documented cases of bodysnatching in London and demonstrates that far more can be said of its key features – its perpetrators, modus operandi, the public response, punishments and influence – than previously thought. This chapter argues that the prevailing historiographical representation of early British bodysnatching, particularly in London, requires considerable revision.

in The material body
Heidi Dawson-Hobbis
and
Jocelyn Davis

This chapter presents combined historical and osteoarchaeological biographies for five named individuals, Maria Taylor (1822–45), Thomas Rokeby Price (1849–53), Mark Kelson (1801–57), George Cumberland (1754–1848) and Elizabeth Cumberland (1752–1837), excavated from the nineteenth century cemetery of St George’s, Bristol. For this period there is a wealth of documentary evidence relating to occupation, family status and childbirth, and causes of death and injury that can complement osteological evidence of ageing, disease and activity patterns. Maria Taylor and Thomas Rokeby Price both had tuberculosis cited as the cause of death, enabling a comparison with the evidence for any skeletal lesions associated with this diagnosis, and adding to our knowledge of the manifestations of tuberculosis. Mark Kelson had evidence for a healed fracture, with the circumstances of his injury being reported in the local press. This allows a rare comparison between the state of healing of the injury and the known timeframe of the event. George and Elizabeth Cumberland were very elderly when they died: here we undertake an exploration of the ageing body, outlining some of the problems inherent in osteological methods of age determination. Letters written by George Cumberland also allow a more personal view of his age-related bodily ailments. This exploration of five individuals has allowed us to gain new insights into the lived experience of the inhabitants of Bristol in the nineteenth century and has demonstrated how collaboration between osteoarchaeological and historical research allows the illumination of less studied groups, such as women, children, and those of lower socioeconomic status.

in The material body
Anna M. Davies-Barrett
and
Sarah A. Inskip

The introduction of tobacco to Europe in the sixteenth century preceded a proliferation in societal norms, rituals and taboos surrounding its consumption. Historical sources suggest that pipe use was highly gendered, and became entangled with ideas about masculinity and sociability. The focus on male social smoking behaviours in historical sources provides limited scope for a more nuanced understanding of tobacco consumption across different social groups. Osteoarchaeological evidence for habitual smoking can also be identified from ‘pipe-notches’ and distinctive staining on the teeth. Further, the analysis of archaeological pipe assemblages provides insight into the materiality of smoking. Combining documentary, material and osteoarchaeological evidence, this chapter provides a unique consideration of the embodied experience of tobacco consumption in relation to social identity during the industrial period in England. It is demonstrated that age, class, gender, ethnicity and regional and cultural backgrounds may have all affected the ways in which people experienced tobacco consumption. Class and occupation were particularly important determining factors of tobacco consumption, as well as shaping how certain tobacco consumption practices were marginalised in print culture. We also identify a disconnect between documentary evidence for consumption of tobacco as a predominantly male social practice, and osteoarchaeological evidence for a large proportion of women also consuming, perhaps in the privacy of their own homes. The types of evidence utilised here can all present biases that result in the ‘invisibility’ of certain societal groups. However, in combination, they provide a unique perspective for understanding embodied experiences related to tobacco consumption across society.

in The material body
War remains and the politics of commemoration in the wake of the Asia-Pacific War
Beatrice Trefalt

In January 1955, an official mission departed Japan for New Guinea to collect remains of the war dead and to erect commemorative monuments to fallen soldiers. Just before its departure, a diplomatic contretemps arose about the English wording on the Japanese stones: the Japanese government considered them memorials to the dead, whereas the Australian government insisted that they be mere geographical markers noting the search for remains. This article examines how the divergent politics of commemoration in Japan and Australia created this dispute, demonstrating how the remains of soldiers functioned as important signifiers well beyond their material existence. In Japan, the search for remains spoke to the nature of national duty, the acknowledgement of mourning and the possibilities for atonement. In Australia, however, they stimulated visceral resentment, because the soldiers’ remains symbolised Japanese aggression and war crimes.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
In search of the Republic of Vietnam war dead
Alex-Thái Dinh Võ

Finding, identifying and interring the war dead are ethically and ceremonially crucial tasks for healing, repairing and legitimising. Before the end of the Vietnam War, the United States had begun to look for missing Americans in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In the wake of its victory and takeover of South Vietnam, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam went to great lengths to identify and immortalise its fallen soldiers. The same cannot be said for the war dead of the Republic of Vietnam, whose fall on 30 April 1975 made the war dead stateless; consequently they have never been legitimately acknowledged by the current Vietnamese government or their former ally, the United States. This article explores the accounting efforts by Nguyen Dạc Thành and the Vietnamese American Foundation to reveal the financial, logistical, technical and political opportunities and challenges in accounting for war dead associated with a state that no longer exists.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s policies for repatriating soldiers’ remains and accounting for the missing after the Chinese Civil War and the Korean War
Liu Zhaokun

After the Chinese Civil War (1946–49), hundreds of thousands of graves of the People’s Liberation Army soldiers dotted the country’s landscape; the ensuing Korean War caused more casualties. Honouring this immense sacrifice and mobilising the survivors for its reconstruction were indispensable for the nascent People’s Republic of China. This research probes China’s policies to repatriate soldiers’ remains and account for those missing after these wars. The dilapidating status of soldiers’ graves threatened the morale of soldiers’ families, the backbone of the country’s socialist revolution. The state acknowledged families’ wishes to retrieve soldiers’ remains and nationalised their repatriation to salvage popular support. However, the deceased were not to drain the labour and resources reserved for the revolution. This principle had effectively prevented most families from retrieving remains. Accounting for missing soldiers was to ensure that only the revolutionary martyrs’ families could receive due honour and privilege.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Fate, fortune and families of fallen soldiers in nationalist China
Linh D. Vũ

Although local authorities, communities and charities played a major role in dealing with conflict fatalities, the Republican era (1911–49) saw new government initiatives to attend to the afterlives of common soldiers. Leaders of the Nationalist Party (Guomindang) exemplified ambitions to govern the dead by implementing a policy of collecting and burying fallen soldiers. As the first public military cemetery, constructed in Nanjing in 1935, could not accommodate the millions of war dead in the decade of war that followed, the Nationalist state promulgated regulations to help bereaved families transport remains back to their home towns for burial. The Nationalist government began to plan more national military cemeteries after World War II, yet most commemorative projects in mainland China were interrupted by the Chinese Civil War. By constructing martyrs’ shrines and national cemeteries in Taiwan, the Nationalists are continuing their efforts to look after the military dead.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Actions for the missing: scientific and vernacular forms of war dead accounting
Tâm T. T. Ngô
and
Sarah Wagner

This special issue examines Asian experiences of war and mass death in the previous century, with case studies from China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam (North and South, among its diaspora and across multiple generations). In this introduction we highlight several of the wider analytical interventions offered by the articles: (1) the spatiopolitical dynamics of war dead accounting in which forms of vernacular forensic expertise interact with and inform internationally honed, empirically grounded practices of exhumation and identification; (2) the complex hierarchy of authority over remains that structures programmes of war dead accounting; (3) the variegated (as opposed to monolithic) nature of war dead themselves; and (4) the material ecosystems of remains, graves, cemeteries and the non-human forces of decay acting upon them. Finally, the introduction highlights the issue’s comparative potential: that is, what these different cultural, religious and ideological modes of meaning-making reveal about why and how human remains matter in the aftermath of war – and not just according to Western notions of national memory politics in which the soldier stands in for the state and collective mourning animates the national imaginary.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
The identification of an American First World War MIA
Jay E. Silverstein

In 2004, the remains of two First World War US soldiers from France were delivered to the US Government for identification and burial. One set of remains was identified and buried, and the other went into a cold-case status. In 2019, the second individual was identified using multiple lines of evidence. The possible individuals that could be associated with the remains were reduced based on material evidence recovered with the remains and the spatiotemporal historical context of the remains. The First World War personnel records then offered sufficient biometric criteria to narrow the possible individuals associated with the second recovered individual to one person, Pfc. Charles McAllister. A family reference DNA sample from a direct matrilineal descendant of the individual added statistical weight to the identification, although the mtDNA was not a decisive or necessary factor in the identification. Due to bureaucratic reasons, the legal identification of Pfc. Charles McAllister is still pending.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal