I'm a PhD student researching the role of mortuary archaeology in contemporary British society. Think of this as a scrapbook of all the interesting links, snippets of information and random bits and bobs I come across pertaining to death, dying and the dead. Enjoy?!

where have you gone? I miss seeing your posts

Thank you for noticing I’d disappeared! ;o) Things went a bit mental in PhD-land, but I’m hoping to get back to posting regularly-ish soon! 

biomedicalephemera:

What do you get the person who has everything?

What can you get this close to the holidays that will get to you in time?

A skull! Well, not literally, they probably already have that. No, the skull THEY need is one of the many skulls in the Hyrtl skull collection of the Mutter Museum. Or rather, the skulls need them. Or you! They’re old, and falling apart. Over 150 years old, to be exact.

The antemortem (before-death) information known about these skulls, the medical studies done using them, and the fact that they’re incredibly historically important, as they were some of the many points Hyrtl used to make a thorough debunking of phrenology, means that these bones are irreplaceable. But the vibrations of visitors and the wear of time on these old faces means that teeth are loosening, condyles are cracking, and internal structures are beginning to crumble.

In order to keep the skulls available to researchers and visitors, highly-skilled meticulous restoration and reinforcement is needed, and that’s where you can help: For $200, you can sponsor the “rejuvenation” of one of these bad boys. Your (or your friend’s) name will even be displayed alongside the skull in the museum!

Help save an invaluable part of medical history, and have your name in one of the coolest museums around, to boot! (not to mention, if you save a skull you’re given a membership to the museum, so you can go and see your bony buddy :D)

But move quickly if you want to give one of the awesomest gifts out there - there are only 139 skulls, and over half are already adopted.

See the catalogue of skulls here [pdf]. Might I suggest adopting Mr. Boechedi Cattaro or Paul Dragio? They’re cuties.


Video reveals how London Heathrow can spread a pandemic in DAYS
A global pandemic is one of the most serious threats to the future of the human race and now scientists have made a video showing how a deadly virus could spread from London’s busy Heathrow airport.
German researchers have developed a breakthrough system for predicting how rapidly an outbreak might spread and where.
While in times past diseases typically spread within local areas, modern pandemics cross borders rapidly via the complex network of global flight patterns and busy aviation hubs and can spread across the world in a matter of weeks.

(Source: Daily Mail)

Video reveals how London Heathrow can spread a pandemic in DAYS

A global pandemic is one of the most serious threats to the future of the human race and now scientists have made a video showing how a deadly virus could spread from London’s busy Heathrow airport.

German researchers have developed a breakthrough system for predicting how rapidly an outbreak might spread and where.

While in times past diseases typically spread within local areas, modern pandemics cross borders rapidly via the complex network of global flight patterns and busy aviation hubs and can spread across the world in a matter of weeks.

(Source: Daily Mail)





Obama’s funeral selfie is a fitting end to my Tumblr – Selfies at Funerals
The Mandela memorial selfie elicited much righteous indignation. But, like the teens on my site, these leaders are merely using a new visual language to express mixed emotions

At Nelson Mandela’s memorial service yesterday, the US president, Barack Obama, said: “Let us search for his largeness of spirit somewhere inside of ourselves.” And, he could have added, inside our selfies. At that same event, Obama smooshed heads with the Danish and British prime ministers for what is arguably the most epic funeral selfie of all time. 

Dozens of people quickly tweeted me about it, which pleased me greatly. I was the guy who, with a viral Tumblr called Selfies at Funerals, made “funeral selfie” one of the most noxious phrases of 2013.


(Source: The Guardian)

Obama’s funeral selfie is a fitting end to my Tumblr – Selfies at Funerals

The Mandela memorial selfie elicited much righteous indignation. But, like the teens on my site, these leaders are merely using a new visual language to express mixed emotions
At Nelson Mandela’s memorial service yesterday, the US president, Barack Obama, said: “Let us search for his largeness of spirit somewhere inside of ourselves.” And, he could have added, inside our selfies. At that same event, Obama smooshed heads with the Danish and British prime ministers for what is arguably the most epic funeral selfie of all time.
Dozens of people quickly tweeted me about it, which pleased me greatly. I was the guy who, with a viral Tumblr called Selfies at Funerals, made “funeral selfie” one of the most noxious phrases of 2013.
(Source: The Guardian)

Identifying the unknown skeletons of Argentina’s Dirty War: Scientists begin the grim job of finding out who victims of the conflict were 
Forensic specialists have begun piecing together the remains of hundreds of victims from Argentina’s Dirty War. 
For nearly 30 years, the group of scientists from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team have been examining skeletons from all over the world including Che Guevara’s who was executed in Bolivia more than 40 years ago. 
But now they have begun identifying the bones belonging to victims who died during the Argentine military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983 which became known as the Dirty War.

(Source: Daily Mail)

Identifying the unknown skeletons of Argentina’s Dirty War: Scientists begin the grim job of finding out who victims of the conflict were 

Forensic specialists have begun piecing together the remains of hundreds of victims from Argentina’s Dirty War. 

For nearly 30 years, the group of scientists from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team have been examining skeletons from all over the world including Che Guevara’s who was executed in Bolivia more than 40 years ago. 

But now they have begun identifying the bones belonging to victims who died during the Argentine military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983 which became known as the Dirty War.

(Source: Daily Mail)


Stonehenge: Two tribes go to war – over bones
Two modern-day tribes with competing claims to Stonehenge are set to join battle this week over the remains of the dead. On one side stand the archaeologists, who insist that bones of ancient Britons buried near the monument should be put on display at the new £27m visitor centre, which opens on Wednesday.
Ranged against them is a warband of druids – led by Arthur Pendragon – who are campaigning for the bones to be reburied.
It is a conflict that raises considerable passion, along with questions about human dignity and how best to explain the past to the public. But both sides plan to wage war on the politest of terms: English Heritage has allowed the Loyal Arthurian Warband to hold a protest on Wednesday on its land at the site, while the druid group says “non-violent, direct action” will be used only as a last resort.

(Source: Independent)

Stonehenge: Two tribes go to war – over bones

Two modern-day tribes with competing claims to Stonehenge are set to join battle this week over the remains of the dead. On one side stand the archaeologists, who insist that bones of ancient Britons buried near the monument should be put on display at the new £27m visitor centre, which opens on Wednesday.

Ranged against them is a warband of druids – led by Arthur Pendragon – who are campaigning for the bones to be reburied.

It is a conflict that raises considerable passion, along with questions about human dignity and how best to explain the past to the public. But both sides plan to wage war on the politest of terms: English Heritage has allowed the Loyal Arthurian Warband to hold a protest on Wednesday on its land at the site, while the druid group says “non-violent, direct action” will be used only as a last resort.

(Source: Independent)


The Thousand-Year Graveyard
Scientists uncover a tortured history of disease and death from the Middle Ages onward
On a hot afternoon in July 2012, Giuseppe Vercellotti was digging up bones near the wall of an abandoned medieval church here, thinking about getting a cold drink, when he heard his students call his name. Faces glistening with sweat, they told him that they had found something strange buried half a meter down. Vercellotti took a look and saw a layer of lime, used in ancient times to squelch the stench of rotting corpses. When he tapped the hard layer with his trowel, it sounded hollow.
“We immediately thought it was a mass grave,” says Vercellotti, a biological anthropologist at Ohio State University, Columbus, who co-leads a field school here. “We instructors were all excited and hopeful.”
But the students were apprehensive: “They all started talking about possible contagion,” Vercellotti says. Unconcerned, he leaned deep into the trench, where he got a whiff of a pungent odor and spotted an elbow bone poking out of the lime that had sealed it like a cast. The layer spoke of bodies tossed into a pit and hastily covered with lime. Could this trench hold victims of the Black Death, the plague that killed half of Europe in the Middle Ages?

(Source: Science)

The Thousand-Year Graveyard

Scientists uncover a tortured history of disease and death from the Middle Ages onward

On a hot afternoon in July 2012, Giuseppe Vercellotti was digging up bones near the wall of an abandoned medieval church here, thinking about getting a cold drink, when he heard his students call his name. Faces glistening with sweat, they told him that they had found something strange buried half a meter down. Vercellotti took a look and saw a layer of lime, used in ancient times to squelch the stench of rotting corpses. When he tapped the hard layer with his trowel, it sounded hollow.

“We immediately thought it was a mass grave,” says Vercellotti, a biological anthropologist at Ohio State University, Columbus, who co-leads a field school here. “We instructors were all excited and hopeful.”

But the students were apprehensive: “They all started talking about possible contagion,” Vercellotti says. Unconcerned, he leaned deep into the trench, where he got a whiff of a pungent odor and spotted an elbow bone poking out of the lime that had sealed it like a cast. The layer spoke of bodies tossed into a pit and hastily covered with lime. Could this trench hold victims of the Black Death, the plague that killed half of Europe in the Middle Ages?

(Source: Science)


Mystery cave find wows Spanish scientists
Archaeologists made an exciting discovery near Barcelona recently: the 6,400-year-old remains of four people. Strangest of all, the group may have been bound together with rope and wrapped in a shroud at death.
The archaeologists from the University of Barcelona found the remains of a 50-year-old man, an adolescent and two children in a cave near the city of Barcelona.
The bodies were in unusually good condition because a rockfall had blocked off the entrance to the cave, researchers said.
But it was the circumstances of the find that were most intriguing.
All four bodies had been placed in an “extreme foetal position” and lined up along the north wall of the cave, and the scientists believe they had been tied together with ropes and wrapped in a funeral shroud.
"The funerary rites here are different to those (seen) elsewhere", said Manel Edo, the director of the excavations. 
He said the rites — which date from the early stages of the Middle Neolithic period — were the first of their kind to be seen on the Iberian peninsula. 
Edo also explained the bodies had been placed in fetal position because “that is how you arrive on Earth and how you leave”.
At the site, the archaeologists also found household objects including a double-handed vase, and the remains of two goats and a cow, while the man of the group had a bone pendant below his left arm.  
The cave also included the remains of a bonfire, which may have lit during the funeral, the scientists said.

(Source: The Local)

Mystery cave find wows Spanish scientists

Archaeologists made an exciting discovery near Barcelona recently: the 6,400-year-old remains of four people. Strangest of all, the group may have been bound together with rope and wrapped in a shroud at death.

The archaeologists from the University of Barcelona found the remains of a 50-year-old man, an adolescent and two children in a cave near the city of Barcelona.

The bodies were in unusually good condition because a rockfall had blocked off the entrance to the cave, researchers said.

But it was the circumstances of the find that were most intriguing.

All four bodies had been placed in an “extreme foetal position” and lined up along the north wall of the cave, and the scientists believe they had been tied together with ropes and wrapped in a funeral shroud.

"The funerary rites here are different to those (seen) elsewhere", said Manel Edo, the director of the excavations. 

He said the rites — which date from the early stages of the Middle Neolithic period — were the first of their kind to be seen on the Iberian peninsula. 

Edo also explained the bodies had been placed in fetal position because “that is how you arrive on Earth and how you leave”.

At the site, the archaeologists also found household objects including a double-handed vase, and the remains of two goats and a cow, while the man of the group had a bone pendant below his left arm.  

The cave also included the remains of a bonfire, which may have lit during the funeral, the scientists said.

(Source: The Local)


Archaeologists find more bodies at Durham University site
Durham University archaeologists have found the remains of many more human bodies at a dig on the City’s World Heritage Site, providing clear evidence of a centuries-old mass grave.
The number of bodies found has risen from four to 18.
Experts first thought they had uncovered remains of Durham Cathedral’s medieval cemetery, whose boundaries may have extended further than the present day burial site.
But further investigation has revealed an unorthodox and intriguing layout to the bodies which archaeologists say is proof of a mass burial.

(Source: Popular Archaeology)

Archaeologists find more bodies at Durham University site

Durham University archaeologists have found the remains of many more human bodies at a dig on the City’s World Heritage Site, providing clear evidence of a centuries-old mass grave.

The number of bodies found has risen from four to 18.

Experts first thought they had uncovered remains of Durham Cathedral’s medieval cemetery, whose boundaries may have extended further than the present day burial site.

But further investigation has revealed an unorthodox and intriguing layout to the bodies which archaeologists say is proof of a mass burial.

(Source: Popular Archaeology)