Archaeology and Heritage

Abstract only
,

The site of Hawara is described, including details of the royal pyramid complex built by King Amenemhat III, and the nearby labyrinth and cemetery. Flinders Petrie’s fieldwork at Hawara is discussed, including his priorities in digging, and his approach to cataloguing and transporting the artefacts that were excavated.

in Golden Mummies of Egypt
Iwona Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin

Mummified human remains are synonymous with Ancient Egypt and with Manchester Egyptology, and they provide an unparalleled body of evidence through which to investigate life and death in the past. The ethics and practicalities of different methods of studying mummies is explored, including X-rays, endoscopic examination, CT scans, and the history of public ‘unwrappings’. The rapidly advancing and continually evolving technology of digital imagery, including the latest generation ‘Dual Energy’ scanners, and increased access to clinical facilities through collaboration with the NHS in Manchester, continues to revolutionise and refine non-destructive methods of study at Manchester Museum, greatly adding to our understanding of life and death in Ancient Egypt.

in Golden Mummies of Egypt
Roberta Mazza

The survival of many thousands of fragments of papyri mean that we have extensive knowledge of life in Ancient Egypt, including information about the everyday lives of citizens as well as details of major events and royal or military leaders. Papyrology as a discipline is discussed, including illegal excavation and the appropriation of historic artefacts such as papyrus fragments, and the importance of responsible practices and ethical papyrology now and in the future.

in Golden Mummies of Egypt
Abstract only
Between Rapture and Revulsion
,

Fascination with Egyptian mummies continues to endure, linked no doubt to their recurring presence in popular culture, which in turn prompts a focus on mummified human remains in museums. This chapter consider the basic polarities in attitudes to mummies – from rapture to revulsion – and considers the idea that each encounter can represent a contradictory response to, and appropriation of, Pharaonic funerary culture. Perhaps the most enduring ‘discovery’ is that the historic and pervasive longing to know the people behind the images and funerary objects of ancient Egypt is in fact a reflection of our own modern concern with life and death, and the fascinations and fears of what is after life.

in Golden Mummies of Egypt
Abstract only
The Divine Deceased
,

This chapter explores funerary rites and objects of Ancient Egypt as part of the preparations for, and responses to, death. Items are discussed in terms of how they can offer insights into the social status and lifeworld of the deceased, as well as what they can tell us about belief in an afterlife and, importantly, the impact of socio-religious convention on cultural behaviour and practices, and presence of scepticism about the afterlife. The process and ritual function of mummification is explored with reference to specific figures, such as the mummy and coffin of Tasheriankh. Particular practices including embalming, use of hieroglyphic writing in religious display, iconographic themes, and the use of gold in the funerary industry are discussed at length, with reference to particular examples in Manchester Museum’s collections.

in Golden Mummies of Egypt
Regimes of value associated with the corpse in French nineteenth-century painting
Anaelle Lahaeye

There are many factors at work in the iconography of human remains. Some of those frequently discussed are aesthetic criteria, iconographic traditions and specific contingencies, whether political (for example in war paintings), symbolic (essential for transi images) or cultural. There is, however, one factor that is rarely mentioned, despite its centrality: the regime of value associated with corpses. Christ’s body is not painted in the same way as that of a departed relative or that used in a human dissection. Artists choose a suitable iconography depending on how the remains are perceived. This criterion became absolutely crucial in contexts such as nineteenth-century France, when attitudes to corpses underwent major changes.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
An interview with Vernelda Grant
Bridget Conley
and
Vernelda Grant

This edited transcript of conversations between an Apache cultural heritage professional, Vernelda Grant, and researcher Bridget Conley explores the knowledge that should guide the repatriation of human remains in the colonial context of repatriating Apache sacred, cultural and patrimonial items – including human remains – from museum collections in the United States. Grant provides a historical overview of the how Apache elders first grappled with this problem, following the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990) in the US Congress. She explains how and why community leaders made decisions about what items they would prioritise for repatriation. Central to her discussion is an Apache knowledge ecology grounded in recognition that the meaning of discrete items cannot be divorced from the larger religious and cultural context from which they come.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Burying the dead in times of pandemic
Diane O’Donoghue

Both historical and contemporary records of mass contagion provide occasions for visibility to persons who otherwise remain little recognised and even less studied: those who bury the dead. While global reports attest to self-advocacy among cemetery workers in the current COVID-19 pandemic, the psychological complexities of their labour go virtually unseen. Findings on the experiences of those doing such work reveal a striking contrast. While societal disavowal often renders their task as abject and forgettable, those who inter the remains frequently report affective connections to the dead that powerfully, and poignantly, undermine this erasure. Acknowledging such empathic relationality allows us to look at this profession in areas where it has never been considered, such as psychoanalytic work on ‘mentalisation’ or in contemporary ethics. The article concludes with an example from the accounts of those who have buried the dead in the massed graves on New York’s Hart Island.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Holocaust ashes in and beyond memorial sites and museums
Zuzanna Dziuban

This article focuses on ongoing contestations around burned human remains originating from the Holocaust, their changing meanings and dynamics, and their presence/absence in Holocaust-related debates, museums and memorial sites. It argues that ashes challenge but also expand the notion of what constitutes human remains, rendering them irreducible to merely bones and fleshed bodies, and proposes that incinerated remains need to be seen not as a ‘second rate’ corporeality of the dead but as a different one, equally important to engage with – analytically, ethically and politically. Challenging the perception of ashes as unable to carry traces of the personhood of the of the dead, and as not capable of yielding evidence, I posit that, regardless of their fragile corporality, incinerated human remains should be considered abjectual and evidential, as testifying to the violence from which they originated and to which they were subjected. Moreover, in this article I consider incinerated human remains through the prism of the notion of vulnerability, meant to convey their susceptibility to violence – violence through misuse, destruction, objectification, instrumentalisation and/or museum display. I argue that the consequences of the constantly negotiated status of ashes as a ‘second rate’ corporeality of human remains include their very presence in museum exhibitions – where they, as human remains, do not necessarily belong.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Telling stories of violence, suffering and death in museum exhibits
Steven Lubar

This article describes some of the techniques museums use to represent the suffering body in exhibitions. Some display human remains, but much more common, especially in Western museums, are stand-ins for the body. Manikins take many forms, including the wax museum’s hyperrealistic representations, the history museum’s neutral grey figures and the expressionistic figures that represent enslaved people in many recent exhibits. Symbolic objects or artefacts from the lives of victims can serve as counterweights to telling the story of their deaths. Photographs can show horror and the machinery of death, focus attention on individual lives or recreate communities. The absence of the body can call attention to its suffering. All of these techniques can be useful for museums trying to display and teach traumatic histories, but must be used with care and caution.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal