Project: Deploying the Dead: Artefacts and human bodies in socio-cultural transformations

The past persists in material objects, perhaps most profoundly in the bodies of the long-dead and the artefacts associated with them. Such bodies, like those of Richard III and Cervantes, are erupting into view in contemporary Europe with increasing frequency. Whilst offering opportunities for education and the promotion of heritage, such encounters with the dead can also pose unsettling questions about cultural identity, the collective past, and the shape of time. Why do the long-dead become flashpoints of identity for the living? Harnessing the disciplines of literature and archaeology, DEEPDEAD will examine historic and prehistoric encounters with human remains and related artefacts in England and Central Europe in order to shed light on their cultural and social power. Through a series of case studies juxtaposing distinct eras, cultures, and modes of recording the encounter, the project will reveal what is constant and what is locally and historically specific in our ways of interacting with the long-dead. Our research will explore the relationship between long-dead bodies and myths of national or community origin, and the ways in which they have been used to reinforce or challenge historical narratives. The project will thus lead to a better understanding of why these forms of matter provoke such a range of responses, and how stakeholders including archaeologists, curators, policy-makers, and the public might better anticipate and understand the reactions they elicit.

Acronym DEEPDEAD (Reference Number: HERA.15.055)
Duration 01/06/2016 - 31/05/2019
Project Topic REFLECTIVE-1-2014
Call HERA Call “Uses of the Past”

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 University of Exeter Coordinator United Kingdom
2 Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology, Europe Department Partner Austria
3 Freie Universität Berlin Partner Germany
4 Czech University of Life Sciences Partner Czech Republic
5 State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Observer Germany
6 Naturhistorisches Museum Wien Observer Austria