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Archaeologists and the DeadMortuary Archaeology in Contemporary Society$
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Howard Williams and Melanie Giles

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198753537

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198753537.001.0001

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Separating the Emotions: Archaeological Mentalities in Central Italian Funerary Archaeology

Separating the Emotions: Archaeological Mentalities in Central Italian Funerary Archaeology

(p.68) 4 Separating the Emotions: Archaeological Mentalities in Central Italian Funerary Archaeology
Archaeologists and the Dead

Ulla Rajala

Oxford University Press

This chapter defines the concept of archaeological mentality and suggests that it is a useful tool in characterizing archaeological thinking and practice. It is argued that pre-designed interviews, even considering their limitations (see Everill 2009: 105–7), are a good method of studying contemporary archaeological mentalities. For this purpose, the chapter presents an ethnoarchaeological investigation among a group of central Italian archaeologists, researchers, and field archaeologists involved in the study of the past peoples of the region, who are or have been engaged in pre-Roman funerary archaeology, the field of study of the author of this chapter. The study was aimed at exploring different attitudes central Italian archaeologists have towards their work, its various aims, guiding principles, and possible outcomes. This research was carried out as part of the preparatory phase of the Remembering the Dead project (Rajala 2008), with the duration of its field phase defined by financial and time constraints. The idea was to investigate the local archaeological context of the project in its planning phase, and this pilot study fulfilled its purpose from this view point. For archaeologists, the discovery, recovery, and study of human remains can be the most direct encounter with past individuals they have, giving a way to interpret the character of ancient customs, rituals, and communities (Parker Pearson 1999). Archaeologists are constantly dealing with the dead either indirectly, when trying to reconstruct the living conditions of past peoples, or directly when excavating and studying funerary remains. Although much effort has been devoted to understanding different funerary contexts (e.g. Parker Pearson 1982; Morris 1987; Lucy 2002; Tarlow 2011), less emphasis has been put upon understanding how our modern concerns and experiences may affect our work (Rajala 2007; Leighton 2010). In contrast, attitudes towards death have already been studied among other professions engaged in handling the dying and the dead (e.g. Cooper and Barnett 2005). Most of the archaeological treatises of the subject at the time of this study have been accounts of archaeologists’ own personal reactions or descriptions of specific cases (cf. Kirk and Start 1999; Reeve and Cox 1999).

Keywords:   Annalistes, Etruscans, fascism, nationalism

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