American roadsides are home to a vast range of impromptu memorials, some anonymous and modest crosses at the scene of a tragedy and others elaborate and well-maintained commemorations. Most of the markers on the shoulders of American streets commemorate the victims of an automobile accident, but there seem to be no especially systematic surveys of the geographical distribution, styles, composition, or duration of such markers. The phenomenon is not restricted to the US: In Australia, for instance, an astounding one in five auto accident fatalities is commemorated by a roadside memorial, and a thorough and fascinating catalogue of its roadside memorialsreveals exceptionally complex markers and a diverse range of material commemorations; in the Ukraine, markers are traditionally placed at the site of tragedyand dot Ukrainian roadsides; and an ambitious French study by anthropologist Laetitia Nicolas inventoried markers and elements of roadside shrines throughout the country, with some thorough ethnographically researched studies of some shrines. While these memorials appear to have become much more common in the past few decades, the historical roots for such memorials extend well into the past, too, evoking the trailside burials left along arteries blazed by the earliest settlers into the American West.
There is a series of compelling archaeological questions in these spontaneous shrines that reflect how we manage tragedy and loss and collectively approach public space.
This is a brilliant post - click through to read the rest!