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Digging for the dead: archaeological practice as mortuary commemoration,
Public Archaeology (2007)
  • Howard M. R. Williams, University of Chester
  • Elizabeth Williams

Archaeologists have yet to fully appreciate the complex interactions between archaeological practice and contemporary responses towards death and commemoration in the UK. The paper reflects upon the experience of working with the local community during archaeological fieldwork in and around an English country churchyard at Stokenham in the South Hams district of Devon in southwest England during 2005 and 2006. Using this case study, it is argued that the current theories and parameters of both mortuary archaeology and public archaeology fail to adequately engage with the diverse community perceptions and concerns over mortality and commemoration. At Stokenham, the archaeological research and student-training programme engaged local people in the discovery of their past but (more importantly for the local community) also helped to secure an acceptable commemorative future. It is argued that this provides a case study of how archaeological practice can interact with community attitudes to death and memory.

  • Stokenham,
  • community archaeology,
  • mortuary practice,
  • gravestones,
  • churchyard survey
Publication Date
Citation Information
Howard M. R. Williams and Elizabeth Williams. "Digging for the dead: archaeological practice as mortuary commemoration," Public Archaeology Vol. 6 Iss. 1 (2007)
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