Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial (Paperback)
Drawing on extensive historical and anthropological research, personal accounts, and interviews with people who work in the funeral industry, Penny Colman examines the compelling subjects of death and burial across cultures and societies. The text, enriched with stories both humorous and poignant, includes details about the decomposition and embalming processes (an adult corpse buried six feet deep without a coffin will usually take five to ten years to turn into a skeleton) and describes the various customs associated with containing remains (the Igala people in Nigeria have a custom of burying people in as many as twenty-seven layers of clothing). Intriguing facts are revealed at every turn; for example, in Madagascar winter was considered the corpse-turning season.
This comprehensive book also includes a list of burial sites of famous people, images in the arts associated with death, fascinating epitaphs and gravestone carvings, a chronology and a glossary, and over a hundred black-and-white photographs, most of which were taken by the author.
Penny Colman writes with compassion and intelligence and humanizes the difficult subjects of death and burial. The result is a powerful look at an inevitable part of life-death.
“Understanding death doesn't necessarily take away our anxieties or fears about our own death, or our sadness about other people's deaths, but it does help us find ways to continue on with our lives.” —Penny Colman
“* A daring and satisfying approach to a difficult subject.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“* Death, the last stage of the human condition, has been underreported and mostly avoided in writing for young people. Colman takes on the task with just the right mix of unblinking realism and sensitivity to varieties of beliefs and practices.” —School Library Journal, starred review
“* This solid, sensitive book answers a wealth of questions young people have but often are too reluctant to ask.” —Booklist, starred review
“The author has a compassionate eye, and she manages to endow her topic with both humanity and humor.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“In death, as in life, it is the personal and particular that is most poignant. In this remarkable presentation of a fascinating subject, Colman uses her own experiences of death, and the ceremonies, rituals and emotions surrounding it, to lead the reader into an exploration of the place that disposal of human remains has occupied both historically and in our time. Colman does not shy away from grisly detail, but presents it to readers young and old, with sensitivity and a solid contextual grounding.” —Children's Literature