David, Bruno and Pivoru, Max and Pivoru, William and Green, Michael and Barker, Bryce and Weiner, James F. and Simala, Douglas and Kokents, Thomas and Arabo, Lisa and Dop, John (2008) Living landscapes of the dead: archaeology of the afterworld among the Rumu of Papua New Guinea. In: Handbook of landscape archaeology. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA. United States, pp. 158-166. ISBN 978-1-59874-294-7
All over the world, cultural groups understand the world to operate in different ways. Central to these various philosophies of life is how people make sense of the mysteries of their lived environments: how do we connect what we know (and can control), with what we do not know (and cannot truly control). An answer that all cultures have - our own included - is the spirit world, that powerful, nebulous realm that enables us to make sense of things and that touches us at the deepest existential levels while always remaining somehow distant and mysterious. Given that all cultural landscapes contain spiritual presences, we would be remiss to try to explain past cultural practices without considering such existential and operational dimensions. Yet how do we attempt landscape archaeology of the intangibles of life? (see McNiven; Ashmore; Bradley, this volume; also David 2002 for detailed discussion). The first step, we suggest, is to recognize the central importance of spiritscapes in everyday social and environmental engagement. This chapter is dedicated toward this aim, by focusing on spiritscapes in one ethnographic community, the Rumu of Papua New Guinea. We outline various kinds of spiritual connections to place to show how everyday life is embedded in sacred geographies. We then focus on a single dimension, the kepe and the land of the dead, to highlight how an archaeology of the dead itself opens doorways to an archaeology of spiritual landscapes.
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