The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death

The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death

by Timothy Taylor


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Do cannibals exist? Is there evidence for contemporary human sacrifice? What are vampires? The Buried Soul charts the story of the human response to death from prehistory to the present day. This book is a radical adventure into the sepulchral world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807046678
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication date: 08/28/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Timothy Taylor, author of The Prehistory of Sex, has appeared on National Geographic channel and HBO as an expert in ancient cultures; he teaches in the Department of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Sentiments and Chronologies1
Chapter 1Ascending Underground17
Chapter 2A Skeleton Illuminated by Lightning39
Chapter 3The Edible Dead56
Chapter 4The Foreign Witness86
Chapter 5Welcome to Weirdworld113
Chapter 6Vexed Ghosts144
Chapter 7Annihilation170
Chapter 8Beyond the Pavlov Hills193
Chapter 9An Unexpected Vampire223
Chapter 10The Singing Bone249
Conclusion: Visceral Insulation273

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The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
djalchemi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is only the second book I've read by an archaeologist (the first was Steven Mithen's Singing Neanderthals) - are they all this good, I wonder? Taylor takes us on a tour from cannibalism, via human sacrifice to people who have been put to death multiple times (to keep their souls from escaping) and interred in bogs where their bodies will not decompose. From these changes, he infers how ideas of the soul, of what it means to be "socially dead" - and indeed what death and mortality are - have evolved. Basically, until we stopped eating our dead relatives and started seeing their intact dead bodies on a regular basis, we weren't confronted so much with the inevitability of our own death. Now, though, we're more likely to experience "visceral insulation", being cut off from the brute physicality of dead bodies and inert tissue. "Human material culture... gains inertia and begins to kick back against its creators, creating unintended new realities," says Taylor (p 212): the practice of preserving the corpses of the dead creates an awareness of death as an ubiquitous inevitability, and ultimately leads to the idea of an afterlife, which in turn affects burial practices from then on. It took me a long time to work through this book, and perhaps that's partly to blame for me feeling that it's not as coherent as, say, The Singing Neanderthals. There's a recurring thread of argument that we underestimate the harshness - what we'd call 'savagery' from our point of view - of previous human behaviour and beliefs. But overall, The Buried Soul feels like a tour, rather than a story or a theory.
PirateJenny on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating book. Subjects range from bog bodies to cannibalism to neolithic accidental burials to ship burials. Taylor is an archaeologist and a lot of his theories are backed up by good archaeological evidence (or lack thereof). But he also incorporates some anecdotal stories from his life, which really shows how our perception of death and burial has changed over the millennia. (I also liked that I have a few books in his bibliography. It makes me feel smart!) Muchly recommended.