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Death in Scotland

Chapters From the Twelfth Century to the Twenty-First

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Peter C. Jupp and Hilary J. Grainger

For the past twenty years, Scottish death culture has emerged as a focus of scholars drawn from a wide variety of disciplines. Death comes to us all but too often we treat it as a private or personal matter. The former taboo about death is slowly lifting and contemporary research is playing an increasing part. Accordingly, the fifteen essays gathered in this book probe the multi-facetted role of death in Scottish history and culture. They explore personal fears of death, anxieties about Predestination, prayers for the dead and the appeal of Spiritualism. They analyse the public face of death in law, economics and medicine: changes in capital punishment, funeral poverty, the teaching of anatomy and prevention of stillbirths. Within the worlds of religion and ritual, they consider the making of saints, burial practice following the Scottish Reformation and the tradition of keening within the Gáidhealtachd. With an Introduction by Professor Jane Dawson, these essays by specialists in the field not only highlight the richness of the primary sources for studying death in Scotland but reveal how death studies identify key features of Scottish life and society across ten centuries.

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2 Advanced Statistical Methods Identify Cultural Differences in Gravemarker Design (George Thomson)

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GEORGE THOMSON

2 Advanced Statistical Methods Identify Cultural Differences in Gravemarker Design

ABSTRACT

The design of gravemarkers, including shape, imagery and inscriptional lettering, is an important indicator of cultural diversity and commemorative practices. Most analytical methods used in gravemarker studies have been more or less subjective. Variation in the rendering of iconography, decoration and lettering can be a valuable identifier of individuals, workshops and cultural groups. Basic statistical methods are commonly used in the analysis of burial grounds and genealogical trends in space and time. Advanced statistics, including geometric morphometrics or shape analysis, identifies nuances which are not apparent through subjective observation, potentially identifying individual carvers or schools. In gravemarker research, geometric morphometrics has been used effectively in the study of inscriptional forms in Scotland, Ireland and north Germany. This chapter outlines multivariate statistical methods and describes three examples from St Magnus Cathedral, Orkney, the Ards Peninsula, Co. Down, and northern Germany. It is suggested that the application of geometric morphometrics can easily be extended to all other aspects of gravestone and memorial design.

Introduction

The design of gravemakers, including shape, imagery and inscriptional lettering, is an important indicator of cultural diversity and commemorative practices. Furthermore, gravemarkers are indicators of identity. Identity can be interpreted in many ways: individual, social, cultural, religious, geographical, and so on. If we know the name of a carver we can sometimes extend our knowledge of that individual’s identity through other sources....

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