The sociopolitics of the living and the dead: The treatment of historic and prehistoric remains in contemporary midwest america

Thomas E Emerson, Paula G. Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this article we explore the perceptions and realities in the treatment of prehistoric and historic human remains in the American Midwest, focusing on Illinois. Numerous case studies are examined involving the disturbance of human burials, with causes ranging from accidental disturbance to deliberate grave robbing. Public reaction to these disturbances has been mixed, however, generally expressing a concern for the sanctity of human burials. The legal status of human remains from prehistoric and historic contexts often has been poorly defined. Few clear guidelines exist for dealing with such remains. Consequently, the actual treatment of disturbed burials often has been contradictory to legal requirements as well as to the public’s beliefs and wishes. One of the greatest discrepancies in the past has been the dichotomy in the treatment of white versus Indian remains. The authors suggest that this situation is changing because of the public ’s increased sensitivity to Native American concerns, disgust for grave looting, and an increased identification of archaeological remains as part of American heritage. Increased awareness and cooperation by many groups have stimulated the passage of new laws guaranteeing more equitable treatment and greater protection for all grave sites for humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-576
Number of pages22
JournalDeath Studies
Volume14
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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