Sun 31 Oct 2010
Among Anglo-Saxons, tonight is Halloween, a rather frivolous holiday with some serious undertones. American movies and TV have propagated the holiday to such an extent however, that the lowest common denominator of the event is relatively well known across the world: small—and big—kids dressing up and collecting candy (“trick-or-treating”). Here’s a pic of my kids six years ago:
Of course, the connection with superstitions about the Undead is easy to spot, be they disguised as the All Souls Christian holiday or el Día de los Muertos in Mexico. As a child in Belgium, we didn’t celebrate Halloween but I did make a scary-face lantern around this time of the year albeit not using a pumpkin but a sugar beet. If I remember correctly, popular lore somehow connected the lanterns with St. Maarten (St. Martin), a saint that actually in some regions of my home province of West Flanders even substituted for Sint Niklaas (St. Nicholas, i.e., Santa) in his gift-giving-to-kids role.
This is primarily an archaeological blog though. So what are the connections between digging up the past and zombies, witches and other scary critters and dark practices? Here are a few choice links:
- “Uncanny Archaeology,” a special feature of the magazine Archaeology
- Zombies in the Academy: Living Death in Higher Education, an edited book for which contributions are still being solicited—and no, this one is not about the sorry state of academia for once… I think ;-)
- “Archaeological Zombies,” a post in the Aardvarchaeology blog, containing this gem:
Archaeology is a famously ghoulish pursuit whose practitioners are always on the look-out for dead bodies to gloat over. If we can’t find a grave, then at least we’ll try to get hold of animal bones from kitchen middens and sacrificial deposits. I’ve seen desperate Mesolithic researchers cackle with funereal glee over the toe bones of long-dead seals. Osteologists are of course the worst necrophiliacs of the lot. But nobody’s immune. There’s an anecdote going around about my old favourite teacher, where he lifts a pelvis out of a Middle Neolithic grave, licks his lips while turning the charnel thing over in his hands, and exclaims, “Now this was a very beautiful woman!”.
- “Zombi,” a feature in the Caribbean Archaeology section of the Florida Museum of Natural History website
- “‘The Curse’ by Josh Ritter – A Mummy & Archaeologist Love Story,” an article on the Heritage Key website
- “Curse of the Mummy,” an article on the National Geographic magazine website
- “Ghost Economy,” a post in The Dirt on Public Archaeology blog on the impact of ghost tourism on archaeological sites