While many, following Ross Douthat , may be worrying about future generations, ossuary expert Paul Koudounaris makes an interesting point about those that have come before in an interview with Molly Langmuir:

How did the mummies in the Palermo catacombs end up with such nice outfits?

For centuries people would pay to have their relatives mummified and put on display. And every November 2 you would dress your mummies in a new set of clothing. It was just a traditional family obligation. Eventually this stopped. Those catacombs are basically the finest fashion history museum in the world — what they’re wearing now is whatever they had on when their relatives stopped bringing them new clothes.

Generally this happened arond the Enlightenment. It shows how drastically our conception of dealing with the dead changed at that point. If you consider Psycho, the one thing that makes Norman Bates absolutely unfit to be a member of human society is that he has his mother mummified and dresses her in clothes. That what marked him as a lunatic. But back in 1700 in Sicily that would have marked him as the paradigm of a loving son. At that point death was not a boundary, it was just a transition and the dead still had a roll [sic] to play.

Show 0 comments