Colonial experiences of death, burial and memorialisation in West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide: applying a phenomenological approach to cultural landscapes in historical archaeology.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The study of cemeteries, with their accumulated material culture, is a popular topic in historical archaeology, eliciting a number of methodological approaches. This paper describes the application of a phenomenological approach, best known previously in archaeology for its use in prehistoric landscape
studies, to a historical public cemetery. The plan and layout of the colonial section (1837–1900) of Adelaide’s West Terrace Cemetery is analysed within the context of nineteenth-century visitation patterns, prevailing attitudes to death and burial in Britain and their influence on South Australian colonial society, to consider what factors influenced the layout, selection, placement, accumulation and display of material culture within the cemetery. The study concludes that beyond the immediate practicality of the deceased’s disposal, the colonial cemetery landscape developed during a time of more regulated cemetery visitation, was intended as a place of movement and experience demonstrating private and public expressions of religious and social beliefs to the observer. Its conscious construction was designed to project a sensory experience of prevailing attitudes to death, burial and society in the nineteenth century. The visitor immersed within this landscape, was engaged in a reflexive sensory dialogue through the mediums of space and material culture. This experiential communication could invoke the power of memory to conjure the deceased’s persona, invite contemplation of personal loss, prevailing community attitudes and religious beliefs, and reaffirm and perpetuate social worldviews.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalAustralasian Historical Archaeology
Volume33
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • archaeology
  • cemeteries
  • South Australia

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