Chapter 12. Spatial Narratives of Death, Memory, and Transcendence



Analysis of the spatial and historical dimensions of mortuary expressions, and explicit recognition of their basis in personal, social, and symbolic memory, are the foundations of an emerging approach to the archaeology of death. Spatial representations of death are viewed in this perspective as elements in the ritual creation and maintenance of personal and social memories of the dead to serve the needs and interests of the living. Examination of a wide range of case studies shows that the scale and form of mortuary expressions are a function of the social and political scale for which memories are relevant and the circumstances in which their representation remains meaningful and effective. The growth and transformation of these expressions over time can therefore be read as a historical narrative of individual choices made in response to spatial representations of the immediate past and perceptions of current and anticipated social and political circumstances.