Saturday 14 November 2020

Book Review: Burying the Dead by Lorrain Evans (Non-Fiction / History / Archaeology)

Title: Burying the Dead
Author: Lorraine Evans
Publisher:Pen and Sword History
Publication Date: 30 January 2021
Pages: 216
eBook - PDF
Genre: Non-Fiction / History / Archaeology
Source: Borrowed from the Library

Deep in the heart of North Yorkshire, at a place called Walkington Wold, there lies a rather unusual burial ground, an Anglo-Saxon execution cemetery. Twelve skeletons were unearthed by archaeologists, ten without skulls, later examination of the skeletons revealed that their owners were all subjected to judicial execution by decapitation, one of which required several blows.

Similar fates have befallen other wretched souls, the undignified burial of suicides - in the Middle Ages, the most profound of sins - and the desecration of their bodies, go largely unrecorded. Whilst plague pits, vast cemeteries where victims of the Black Death were tossed into the ground, their bodies festering one on top of another, are only today betraying their secrets.

Although unpalatable to some, these burial grounds are an important part of our social heritage. They have been fashioned as much by the people who founded and used them, as by the buildings, gravestones and other features which they contain. They are records of social change; the symbols engraved upon individual memorials convey a sense of inherent belief systems, as they were constructed, adapted or abandoned depending on people's needs.

Symbols of Mortality explores how these attitudes, practices and beliefs about death have undergone continual change. By studying the development of society's funerary spaces, the author will reveal how we continue to reinforce our relationships with the dead, in a constant and on-going effort to maintain a bond with them.


Burying the Dead was a fascinating read that explored burial practices through the ages and around the world. There were some aspects I was already aware of, but I also learnt some new and interesting facts along the way. Evans managed to avoid her prose becoming too dry, the information present succinctly yet with excellent references and illustrations. This is a book that will appeal to anyone interested in history and archaeology, as well as those intrigued by cemeteries and burial practices. I particularly enjoyed the wide range of examples cited, taking us from Europe to Asia and South America. 4.5 stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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