Virtually Dead: Digital Public Mortuary Archaeology

Howard WilliamsORCID logo1 and Alison AtkinORCID logo2

1. History and Archaeology Department, University of Chester, UK
2. Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, UK

Publication date: 18 November 2015

Cite this as: Williams, H. and Atkin, A. 2015 Virtually Dead: Digital Public Mortuary Archaeology, Internet Archaeology 40.


Over recent decades, the ethics, politics and public engagements of mortuary archaeology have received sustained scrutiny, including how we handle, write about and display the archaeological dead. Yet the burgeoning use of digital media to engage different audiences in the archaeology of death and burial have so far escaped attention. This article explores categories and strategies by which digital media create virtual communities engaging with mortuary archaeology. Considering digital public mortuary archaeology (DPMA) as a distinctive theme linking archaeology, mortality and material culture, we discuss blogs, vlogs and Twitter as case studies to illustrate the variety of strategies by which digital media can promote, educate and engage public audiences with archaeological projects and research relating to death and the dead in the human past. The article then explores a selection of key critical concerns regarding how the digital dead are currently portrayed, identifying the need for further investigation and critical reflection on DPMA’s aims, objectives and aspired outcomes.

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