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The Archaeology of American Cemeteries and Gravemarkers

At the risk of being accused overly morbid, I’m going to highlight a book about cemeteries for the second time in a year. The last one was The Art of Memory: Historic Cemeteries of Grand Rapids, Michigan and I loved it for its amazing photos that captured the beauty and artistry that I enjoy in cemeteries. This time I’m looking at The Archaeology of American Cemeteries and Gravemarkers by Sherene Baugher and Richard F. Veit – a book that takes a very different approach to the examination of cemeteries, but no less fascinating!As the title suggests, Baugher and Veit look at cemeteries from an archaeologist’s perspective. They include information and examples from excavations, but also strive to explain the evolution of American cemeteries and the many factors that influenced it. Of particular interest is the analysis of burial practices of various ethnic groups. An example of this was a study they cited of some 19th century Chinese cemeteries in California. When compared to European American sections of the same cemeteries, which were arranged carefully in rows, the Chinese graves appeared to be very haphazardly placed. Researchers determined that in reality the graves were very precisely placed using feng shui principles, following the contours of the land and the water flow.The Archaeology of American Cemeteries and Gravemarkers is not light reading, but if you’re looking for a well-researched, scholarly look at American burial practices, you won’t want to miss this book. There is also a local connection – WMU Professor of Anthropology, Michael Nassaney, wrote the foreword....

 
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