EAA Maastricht

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Estella Weiss-Krejci, Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Sebastian Becker, Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Ladislav Šmejda, Czech University of Life Sciences, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Department of Ecology, Czech Republic


The past persists in material objects, perhaps most profoundly in the bodies of the long-dead and the material artefacts associated with them. Dead bodies, like those of English King Richard III in Leicester and Miguel de Cervantes in Madrid are erupting into view in contemporary Europe with increasing frequency. Whilst offering clear opportunities for education and the promotion of heritage, such encounters with the dead can pose unsettling questions about cultural identity, the collective past, and the shape of time. Identifying the meanings and mechanisms of past interactions with the dead and their artefacts can inform our understanding of present-day discoveries and dilemmas.

Post-mortem social agency is a complex phenomenon inherent to human behaviour but surprisingly little studied in the full range of its expressions and consequences. How is it that the dead become flashpoints of controversy, interest, and identity for the living? What can the interventions and negotiations of the living with the long dead tell us about the construction of the self, the national past, and the collective future? Harnessing the disciplines of archaeology, literature, and anthropology this session discusses prehistoric and historic encounters with human remains and explores both how literary narratives influence the reception of archaeological discoveries and how material artefacts and human remains disrupt and inspire literary traditions both in the past and in the present.

This Pecha-Kucha session invites papers that focus on encounters with the remains of the dead and their artefacts and agency and uses of the long-dead in modern society.