Abstracts: Panel Session 5
Revd Angie McLachlan
Deathcare for Dummies: Formulating Models for Best Practice Body Care training in the Funeral and End-of-Life sector
In the 21st century world of staff training, you can get a dummy to stand in for a multitude of dangerous or complex scenarios that might be faced by a real human being. You may remember Resussi Annie. As a training aid she is useful but somewhat lacking in individuality and her lack of personality seems to be common in all the standard training dummies. Overcoming the training dummies blandness of character was a key driver in the project I will present.
The ‘Ichabodies’ were designed specifically as interactive dummies to teach trainee funeral providers and death-workers. Our students come from the alternative funeral/home funeral sector, or are training as Soul-Midwives/Death Doulas. A broad spectrum of workers may be taught basic, but best practice end of life body-care, without the need of a real dead body being present. The resulting dummies present with enough personality to be credible and had to have some of the most common physical characteristics and needs – in Ichabod’s case, of an elderly and infirm gentleman. Catheterized, with a stoma bag and pacemaker, Ichabod has some other tricks up his sleeve too as the design project involved producing convincing – but safe – odorous body fluids and semi reliable plumbing.
The presence of a dummy body that requires personal care; facilitates practical skills, builds student confidence and encourages conversations and questions around the realities of death and dying in a safe and ethical situation. Ichabod is therefore an eloquent interpreter of death for the living. Forged round a plastic skeleton, somehow Ichabod also has the ability to warm hearts. He has become a personality with a back story; he is a social conversation piece through which we explore our mortality.
Human remains as evidence for grief and mourning? A reinterpretation of plastered skulls from the Neolithic of the Levant
Dr Karina Kroucher
University of Bradford
In a change to the types of evidence usually gained from skeletal remains, this paper considers whether skeletal remains can inform us of grief and mourning. Taking the case study of plastered skulls from the Neolithic of Southwest Asia, this paper re-analyses the remains. The plastered skulls are the treated crania recovered from burials beneath house floors, on to which have been recreated faces using mud, lime or gypsum plasters. They are traditionally interpreted as relating to ritual elites, or as a means for expressing community cohesion. This new analysis is informed by recent work between archaeologists and end of life care researchers on the ‘Continuing Bonds: Exploring the meaning and legacy of past and contemporary practice’ project, and investigates whether theories of grief and mourning can shed light on practices in the past at particular moments in time.
Did Impairment Equal Disability in later European Prehistory?
Dr Nick Thorpe
University of Winchester
In seeking the roots of the social construction of the ‘disabled’, few have ventured back beyond the C19. Disability scholars have felt that in the more distant past life was "nasty, brutish and short". Thus Margaret Winzer subtitled the first chapter in her overview of special education “dread and despair”, and specifically described severely impaired individuals in prehistory as non-contributing members of the group constituting an economic hazard.
One of the most intriguing features of the individuals who became bog bodies in the Bronze or Iron Age is the surprisingly common evidence for disability. The sixteen-year-old Yde girl from Holland had a curvature of the spine and would probably have walked with a twisted right foot; the Kayhausen boy from Saxony may have had an infection in the socket at the top of his right femur, resulting in an inability to walk without assistance, and there are several others. It has been suggested that many of those who became bog bodies may have been thought to 'be touched by the gods', either physically or mentally, and thus special individuals set aside from the rest of humanity, appropriate to take the form of a sacrifice to the gods.
From this, one might assume that the fate of the impaired was, as Winzer suggests, a dreadful one, but there are a large number of individuals with a wide range of impairments whose histories were rather different, but are far less well known than the bog bodies. These, by virtue of their greater numbers, can enlighten us about the applicability of the notion of disability with regard to prehistoric societies. Many of these individuals had visible impairments potentially rendering them as disabled, but such a marginal position can be one of both isolation and power.