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Beyond Death

Beliefs, Practice, and Material Expression

Patrick Ryan Williams, Gary M. Feinman and Luis Muro Ynoñán
Publication Year:
English, with abstracts in Spanish
160 pages
Sub-series name:
Fieldiana: Anthropology, 47
BAR number:


This is an open access title available under the terms of a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License. It is free to read, download and share on the BAR Digital platform here

A wide-ranging treatment on the meaning of death, and its juxtaposition with life, from biological, cultural, and spiritual perspectives. Dozens of case studies accompany the principal essays written by scholars, Indigenous community members, and curators of the exhibition Death: Life’s Greatest Mystery. This volume offers a richly illustrated companion to the exhibition, produced by Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, and contains full page photographs of the stunning objects in the exhibit, most from the Field Museum’s collections. This volume is intended to engage visitors to the exhibition and members of the general public who want to delve more fully into questions surrounding death and the multiple religious, historical, and cultural perspectives on it. Although not a comprehensive guide, the book touches on many world religions and case studies drawn from five continents.

Patrick Ryan Williams is Curator of Archaeological Science and Gary M. Feinman is the MacArthur Curator of Anthropology at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago.

Luis Muro Ynoñán is an Anthropology Postdoctoral Scientist at the Field Museum and a Lecturer in Archaeology in the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.

List of contributors: Álvaro Amat, Foreman Bandama, Deborah Bekken, J. P. Brown, Kyrah Malika Daniels, Stacy Drake, Chelsea Foxwell, Mitch Hendrickson, Chapurukha Kusimba, Brad Lepper, Robert D. Martin, Benjamin Miller, Kimberly Mutcherson, Donna J. Nash, William Parkinson, William Pestle, William Schweiker, Nicole M. Slovak, Emily Teeter, Alaka Wali, Meredith Whitfield, Laurie Zoloth

‘A wealth of anthropological perspectives and done in very accessible language. The book greatly amplifies the message of the exhibition’ Dr William Fitzhugh, Director, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center


  • List of Figures
  • 1. Introduction
    Patrick Ryan Williams and Gary M. Feinman
  • 1A Big Questions: A Framework for Exploring Death:
    Benjamin Miller and Meredith Whitfield
  • 2. The Journey from Life to Death: Biology of the Human Life Cycle and Our Attempt to Control It
    Robert D. Martin
  • 2A Sekishinsai Okada Tadaharu 赤心斎 岡田忠遥: Nine Stages of Bodily Decay (Kusōzu)
    Chelsea Foxwell
  • 2B Daoist Immortals, the Lingzhi Fungus, and the Search for Immortality
    Deborah Bekken
  • 2C On Health Disparities and Motherless Children
    Kimberly Mutcherson
  • 2D Response to the Pandemic: Creativity in the Face of Precarity
    Alaka Wali
  • 3. Soul and Vital Force: Vibrant Life Matters and Mortuary Arts in Africana Religions and Beyond
    Kyrah Malika Daniels
  • 3A Mesoamerican Cosmologies: Death, Maize, and the Ballgame
    Gary M. Feinman
  • 3B The Inca Capac Hucha
    Patrick Ryan Williams
  • 3C The Yorùbá Ere Ibeji: Reincarnation of Twins
    Foreman Bandama
  • 3D Sex, Death, and Life Regeneration in the Moche World, 200–900 ce
    Luis Muro Ynoñán
  • 4. Performing Death
    Luis Muro Ynoñán
  • 4A Chancay Burials
    Nicole M. Slovak
  • 4B Egyptian Mummification
    Emily Teeter
  • 4C The Ghanaian Fantasy Canoe Coffin: A Box with Proverbs
    Foreman Bandama
  • 4D Tsavo Shrines
    Chapurukha M. Kusimba
  • 5. Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Death
    William Schweiker
  • 5A The Chevra Kadisha
    Laurie Zoloth
  • 5B The Guna, Molas, and Religious Syncretism
    Alaka Wali
  • 5C Death and the Reclining Buddha
    Mitch Hendrickson
  • 5D Day of the Dead
    Álvaro Amat
  • 6. Social Endurance beyond Human Death
    Gary M. Feinman and Patrick Ryan Williams
  • 6A The Magdalenian Skeleton from Cap Blanc
    Robert D. Martin, J. P. Brown, Stacy Drake, William Pestle, and William Parkinson
  • 6B The Mortuary and Commemorative Poles from Skidegate, British Columbia, Canada
    Luis Muro Ynoñán and Gary M. Feinman
  • 6C The Hopewell Collective
    Brad Lepper
  • 6D Pyramids and Standing Stones: Monuments for the Dead
    Donna J. Nash
  • Appendix A: Spanish Translation of the Introduction
    Patrick Ryan Williams y Gary M. Feinman

Introduction (S3104_Williams_9781407360430_-_introduction.pdf, 1,402 Kb) [Download]

Table of Contents (S3104_Williams_9781407360430_-_contents.pdf, 102 Kb) [Download]