Howard Williams and Melanie Giles (eds.), Archaeologists and the Dead. Mortuary Archaeology in Contemporary Society, Oxford University Press

This volume addresses the relationship between archaeologists and the dead, through the many dimensions of their relationships: in the field (through practical and legal issues); in the lab (through their analysis and interpretation); and in their written, visual and exhibitionary practice – disseminated to a variety of academic and public audiences.

Written from a variety of perspectives, its authors address the experience, effect, ethical considerations, and cultural politics of working with mortuary archaeology. Whilst some papers reflect institutional or organisational approaches, others are more personal in their view: creating exciting and frank insights into contemporary issues which have hitherto often remained “unspoken” amongst the discipline. Reframing funerary archaeologists as “death-workers” of a kind, the contributors reflect on their own experience to provide both guidance and inspiration to future practitioners, arguing strongly that we have a central role to play in engaging the public with themes of mortality and commemoration, through the lens of the past. Spurred by the recent debates in the UK, papers from Scandinavia, Austria, Italy, the US, and the mid-Atlantic, frame these issues within a much wider international context which highlights the importance of cultural and historical context in which this work takes place.

About the editors

Howard Williams is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Chester. His research interests focus on medieval, post-medieval and contemporary mortuary archaeology, archaeologies of memory and the history of archaeology. His fieldwork includes Project Eliseg, investigating the context of the Pillar of Eliseg (Denbighshire, Wales). Howard has published over 70 book chapters and journal articles as well as edited books, most recently Early Medieval Stone Monuments: Materiality, Biography, Landscape (Boydell and Brewer, 2015) and he is Honorary Editor of the Archaeological Journal (2013-2017) and his monograph is titled Death and Memory in Early Medieval Britain (CUP, 2006).

Melanie Giles in an expert in the British and northern European Iron Age, specialising in funerary archaeology as well as Celtic art and artefacts. She is the author of ‘A Forged Glamour: Landscape, identity and material culture in the Iron Age’ (Windgather Press) and the forthcoming ‘Bog Bodies: Face-to-face with the past’ (Pen & Sword Press).