Digging the dead in a digital media age

Duncan Sayer, Julian Walter

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Abstract

Archaeology commonly assumes it has the general public’s support. As a field of study archaeology enjoys a high public profile and in its many shapes - metal detecting, museums and public excavation - people can participate should they choose to. This chapter will examine public perceptions of one recently contentious area, the excavation of human remains, by analyzing internet posts responding to news stories initiated, in all but one case, by archaeologists. By examining social media posts, we will analyze both positive and negative attitudes towards archaeology and its treatment of the ancient and historical dead. In doing this we hope to contribute to developing a more reflexive understanding of social attitudes towards death, archaeology and the exclusivity of heritage studies. Our conclusion is that there is no one ‘public opinion’ of burial archaeology; rather, expressed opinions depend on the specific excavation or exhibition, how the media report it, and various contextual factors; this means that archaeologists will benefit by taking a lead in framing media coverage of how they work with the dead.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArchaeologists and the Dead
Subtitle of host publicationMortuary Archaeology and Contemporary Society
EditorsH. Williams, M. Giles
Place of PublicationOxford, U. K.
PublisherOxford University Press
Pages367-395
Volume9780198753537
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016

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