Natalia Campos-Martíneza and Ofelia Meza-Escobar 2021

University of Sheffield, UK

The Voice of the Dead: incorporating cognitive linguistics and bioarchaeology to explore the General Cemetery of Santiago

​​As the first urban cemetery in Chile, the General Cemetery of Santiago was conceived as a model for the new republican cemeteries, devoid from religious background and with carefully arranged distribution of the burial plots, reflecting the power relations of the society of the living. Based on the assumption that it is in fact possible to read socio-cultural and socio-economic phenomena by studying relevant artefacts on cemeteries, the researchers propose an interdisciplinary approach to the use of these spaces as investigation resources. The material data we will focus on will take the form of textual information and biological profiles of human remains, as well as the contexts that impact them. Texts provide access to relevant cultural and identity components such as beliefs and traditions, while the study of human remains can inform about demographic and epidemiological trends that help characterise the population. Supported by the analysis of textual examples on headstones and combining them with biological information from the people they belong to, we aim to contrast the representations of memory surrounding death in different socio-economic groups. By integrating perspectives from cognitive linguistics and bioarchaeology, we will explore interactions between textual information and bioarchaeological evidence, providing a comprehensive approach to the study of resources often found at cemetery grounds. In this exploratory exercise, we propose means to examine abstract concepts, such as memory or identity, through cemetery research.


The Cemetery Research Group runs two events a year: in May and in November. Follow the links and send in an abstract