ELOQUENT GRAVEYARDS - Part 1 of 5
Updated: Jul 1
Recently, while sifting through my files, I stumbled across a chronicle that I wrote in the 1980s, and I would like to share it with you. It is a research paper on above-ground archaeology that focuses on burial sites and illustrates how they form a rich repository of great historical significance. Regardless of simplicity or complexity, the resting places of humanity eloquently depict the cultural changes that have occurred throughout time. These changes reveal interesting information regarding style (headstone, crypts, etc.), religion, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, as well as personal and societal values.
Whenever we study human beings, we must always be aware that they are cognizant and emotional and that, through their contemplation, generate their theories about themselves and the universe as a whole. Humankind is diverse, complex, and dynamic. Therefore, culture, being a product of humanity, shares the same characteristics imbued by its creators. Sir Edward B. Taylor, a British anthropologist, defined culture as “‘that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, law, morals, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’” (Haviland, 1981).
Moreover, culture is comprised of three basic components: how people act, how they perceive the world or propriospect, and a material dimension. These components are significant when studying the material aspects of a culture for the following reasons (Howard & McKim, 1983):
· The first component refers to “…how people act, especially how they interact with each other”.
· The second component refers to perception or the individual’s propriospect or how they view the world.
· The third component concerns the material dimension, which includes all of “…the physical objects that we produce”.
Because these components of culture are so intricately intertwined and complex, it is practically impossible and inadvisable to attempt any study that requires the isolation of any one of its parts. Accordingly, we can anticipate the occurrence of universal and fundamental cultural constituents capable of having far-reaching effects, both directly and indirectly, throughout the entire system. Consequently, whenever we delve into the past or meditate upon the present, we should do so in a holistic fashion. This gestalt approach will prove to be quite illuminating. Hence, this study is based on a brief survey of cemeteries, an area of inquiry that most researchers eschew. The specific sites that I have researched are located in Tampa, Florida.
Our walk through the cemeteries begins next week in Part 2 of 5.
Haviland, W. A. (1981). Cultural Anthropology. New York, New York, USA: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Howard, M. C., & McKim, P. C. (1983). Contemporary Cultural Anthropology. Boston: Little Brown and Company.