Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


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Evolution of roman lettering in Newfoundland: A case study at Belvedere Roman Catholic Cemetery, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Today’s post is based on ongoing research that started as a prompt for a term paper in grad school. I’ve been conducting research on roman lettering development on upright gravestones for some time (there is a paper on the way, I swear. It’s bogged down in reviewer/edits land but it will be out there eventually!), and this research was based on my interest in the development of lettering styles on gravestones. More specifically, the development of lettering styles carved in a ‘remote’ area, that might not have access to lettering books or script trends as carvers in more urban centres in the British Isles were. Lets delve in, shall we?

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St. John’s Harbour (photo by author 2016)

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When is a grave no longer a grave?

This is a topic I’ve discussed with colleagues on several occasions, and most recently in a really engaging thread on twitter: When is a grave…no longer a grave? If ever, at what point might that happen? There isn’t one definitive answer to this question, and the understanding of a grave, its significance, and longevity are rooted in our backgrounds, cultures, and society.  I’ve finally found some time to sit down and write up the results of the discussion, and share some thoughts with you all.

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Curious Canadian Cemeteries: Fairview Cemetery, Oliver, British Columbia

This is a particularly special site I’d like to discuss with you today: The Fairview Cemetery, near Oliver, BC. Fairview was a gold mining town in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, born out of the gold rush in the area in the late 1880s. Legend has it that gold was first discovered by a one-armed man in the 1860s, but no Europeans arrived to exploit the areas for gold until the 1880s. It was located just west of the modern-day town of Oliver, and some older homes in Oliver are said to have been built out of wood salvaged from the would-be ghost town.

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View from the Fairview townsite over the South Okanagan

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Burial & Death in Colonial North America

As I sit at my desk writing this, the snow is starting to fall again outside, covering every surface with a thin layer of pebbly ice. I opened my email to see a very exciting message, which included an image…the final cover image for my book!

I’m so pleased to formally announce (on my blog, I kind of already did on twitter) that I am in the process of writing a book! It deals with a lot of the themes that my Masters research touched on, with a focus of the spatial analysis of 17th-century burial landscapes in British North American settlements, religious and political changes that affected the development of burial practices in the colonial period, and other interesting topics like gravestone iconography development on the Atlantic coast (aka: not puritan deaths heads, hexfoils, non-decorated stones…my favourite things, pretty well).

The book is being published with Emerald Publishing Ltd.’s “Emerald Studies in Death and Culture” and will be titled: “Burial and Death in Colonial North America: Exploring Interment Practices and Landscapes in 17th-Century British Settlements.” 

Final Cover

If you are interested in learning more about the book series, or about my addition to the awesome collection when it comes online, check out the series page at Emerald Studies in Death and Culture at that hyperlink. I think this book is slated to come out in the late spring, but first I need to get through all of the edits and formatting and more edits. Wish me luck! 🙂

Thank you to my editors for guiding me along the book-publishing path so far. It’s such an amazing opportunity for an early-career researcher to be able to get their work out there like this, and I’m so happy for the chance to turn my giant thesis project into something that people might actually like to read! Publishing a book was one of the two goals I’ve had since childhood (the other was being an archaeologist, so check and check), and while I meant fiction originally, this definitely counts. On to editing!

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Curious Canadian Cemeteries: Brick Street Cemetery, London, ON

It’s that time again friends, where we sit down to highlight yet another one of Canada’s Curious Canadian Cemeteries. Today, lets take a little look at the Brick Street Cemetery in London, Ontario, its history, ongoing protection, and its stone carvers.

I have only visited this site once myself, during London’s Door’s Open event several weeks ago. Doors Open is an event where historic sites and buildings around a city will open their doors free of charge to the public, and it’s a great way to go see museums and heritage sites in your community that you might not otherwise have a chance (or the funds) to visit! We visited several historic sites around town over the course of the weekend, but spent the most time at the Brick Street Cemetery.
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Imported gravestones from Massachusetts in Atlantic Canada & examples from Cambridge (One common skull, continued)

Previously on this blog I have discussed what I like to call the “one common skull”. It is a death’s head design, a name given to a motif with a central winged skull, sometimes with crossed bones nearby, or an hourglass, or any other mortality symbol really, and was popular through the 17th and 18th centuries on gravestones throughout eastern North America. The use of mortality symbols in the colonial period draws inspiration from the medieval use of these same symbols to remind viewers of their mortality and was popular across many different groups, not because Puritans were particularly morbid.

If you missed the previous posts and want to catch up, you can read about Outsourcing Monuments in Newfoundland or a small case study at the Old Burying Point in Salem, MA by clicking those links. Then come back and join us here!

This style of gravestone is particularly interesting to me because it is everywhere on the Atlantic coast, throughout the colonial period! While mortuary archaeologists and art historians can say that this style, characterized by the central winged skull with a V-shaped nose in the lunette, small finials with a circular design inside, and the same leafy and circular pattern down the borders around the central text, originated in Massachusetts, it seems like we still don’t know who the carver (or school of carvers) was who is responsible. I don’t have an answer for that yet, but I do want to take a closer look at the chronology of the style in MA compared to imported varieties in Atlantic Canada.
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Public Engagement through Burial Landscapes: Cupids and Ferryland, Newfoundland

img_20181015_1539272683491709296464501.jpgI’m excited to be able to share my public burial archaeology paper, “Public Engagement through Burial Landscapes: Cupids and Ferryland, Newfoundland” with all of you!

It was released today, along with many other articles on public burial archaeology in AP: The Online Journal in Public Archaeology’s Special Volume 3: Death in the Contemporary World: Perspectives from Public Archaeology.

My article discusses ‘lost’ burial grounds – burial grounds which are known to exist, but have yet to be identified – like the 17th-century burial ground at Ferryland, and how discussion with visitors on historic burial practices can often lead to a dialogue on modern burial practices.

If you are interested, I’ve put a link HERE, where you can download the entire volume or each paper individually. It’s an open-access journal too, which is amazing! (If you’re going to do a Public Archaeology journal, it really should be open-access or it’s negating its own point.) I’m so pleased to be able to share this research with you all. While you’re at it, check out the amazing papers by everyone else in the volume, it’s chalked full of deathy-arch goodness!

 

Citation:
Lacy, Robyn S. 2018. Public Engagement through Burial Landscapes: Cupids and Ferryland, Newfoundland. AP: Online Journal of Public Archaeology, Special Volume 3: Death in the Contemporary World: Perspectives from Public Archaeology. Pp. 55-78. Available online: http://revistas.jasarqueologia.es/index.php/APJournal/issue/view/14/showToc