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From plastered skulls to palliative care: what the past can teach us about dealing with death.

Buster, Lindsey and Croucher, Karina and Dayes, Jennie and Green, Laura and Faull, Christina (2018) From plastered skulls to palliative care: what the past can teach us about dealing with death. AP : Online Journal in Public Archaeology, 3. pp. 249-276. ISSN 2171-6315

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Abstract

Modern, advanced healthcare detects and monitors long-term and life-limiting illness more comprehensively than ever before. However, death is now often considered medical failure, and is a virtually taboo topic of conversation in daily life. At a time when the societal relevance of archaeology is under scrutiny more than ever before, the AHRC-funded Continuing Bonds Project – a collaboration between archaeology and palliative care – explores the potential of the past to promote discussion. Not only does archaeology illuminate the diversity of practice surrounding death, the past provides a safe, distanced platform for considering death, dying and bereavement today. Through archaeological and ethnographic case studies, health and social care professionals and students consider topics such as place, choice and identity, in both personal and professional life. This article examines participant responses to a variety of archaeological material and presents post-workshop reflections which demonstrate the success of archaeology in opening up conversations and increasing confidence in discussing this most enduring and problematic of life events.

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