Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


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Protect the Grave: The hexfoil in an early mortuary context

If you follow me on instagram, you’ve probably seen a photo of the tattoo on my knee. Surrounded by a cluster of foliage, most of which are native plants of British Columbia, is a bold, black hexfoil. I’ve talked about this symbol on the blog before but today I wanted to a bit more of a deep dive into the symbol’s history, it’s distribution, and it’s significance in a mortuary context. If you’re interested in this topic, keep an eye out for my upcoming book “Burial and Death in Colonial North America“, where I will be discussing hexfoils in a mortuary context in much more depth.

Consider this the taster!
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Curious Canadian Cemeteries: South side / Old Non-Denominational Burial Ground, Ferryland, Newfoundland.

This site is near and dear to my little heart, perched on the hill west of the historic site of the Colony of Avalon at Ferryland, Newfoundland. It was one of the sites I explored during my MA thesis (see my publications for a link to the thesis, or wait a few months for the book!), and come to think of it I could very easily populate this series with all NL sites from my thesis research. Would anyone want to read that? Maybe?

Exposed to the often harsh and relentless winds of the North Atlantic ocean, anyone visiting graves in Ferryland in the 18th and 19th centuries would have had an unobstructed view of any passing ice bergs or whales!

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View of the Colony of Avalon from the burial ground (photo by author 2015)

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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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