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The ‘Invisible Dead’ and the Development of Early Human Beliefs about the Body

by Ed Hagen last modified Sep 25, 2013 01:29 PM
Formal disposal of the dead is widely practised today, but this has not always been the case; among prehistoric societies so few burials are encountered that it appears to have been the exception rather than the rule. When did ‘formal’ burial and cremation become generalised? What significance did this have for the development of religious belief and human self-awareness? A new project funded by the John Templeton Foundation is being undertaken by an inter-disciplinary team from Durham University. The project which started in October 2012 involves a team of specialists; Principal Investigator Chris Scarre (prehistory of western Europe) and Co-Investigators Professors Graham Philip (Levant), Charlotte Roberts (skeletal analysis) and Douglas Davies (anthropologist and theologian), as well as an international Board of Advisors. Two post-doctoral researchers are also working on the project: Dr. Jennie Bradbury (Levant) and Dr. Mandy Jay (Britain). The project aims to provide a new understanding of the emergence of religious belief and self-awareness over the past 12,000 years. It is examining archaeological data from across two regions (Britain and the Levant) in order to explore the temporal, social and economic contexts of changing relationships between human socio-religious beliefs and concepts of the body and the afterlife.


Project blog:


Anyone interested in this project, or who may have potential datasets to contribute should get in contact with either Dr Jennie Bradbury (Levant: or Dr Mandy Jay (Britain:

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