Corpses, Coffins and Crypts: A History of Burial

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Overview

Drawing on extensive historical and anthropological research, personal accounts, and interviews with people who work in the funeral industry, Penny Colman examines the compelling subjects of death and burial across cultures and societies. The text, enriched with stories both humorous and poignant, includes details about the decomposition and embalming processes (an adult corpse buried sex feet deep without a coffin will usually take five to ten years to turn into a skeleton) and describes the various customs ...

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Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial

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Overview

Drawing on extensive historical and anthropological research, personal accounts, and interviews with people who work in the funeral industry, Penny Colman examines the compelling subjects of death and burial across cultures and societies. The text, enriched with stories both humorous and poignant, includes details about the decomposition and embalming processes (an adult corpse buried sex feet deep without a coffin will usually take five to ten years to turn into a skeleton) and describes the various customs associated with containing remains (the Igala people in Nigeria have a custom of burying people in as many as twenty-seven layers of clothing). Intriguing facts are revealed at every turn; for example, in Madagascar winter was considered the corpse-turning season.

This comprehensive book also includes a list of burial sites of famous people, images in the arts associated with death, fascinating epitaphs and gravestone carvings, a chronology and a glossary, and over a hundred black-and-white photographs, most of which were taken by the author.

Penny Colman writes with compassion and intelligence and humanizes the difficult subjects of death and burial. The result is a powerful look at an inevitable part of life—death.

Documents the burial process throughout the centuries and in different cultures.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Understanding death doesn't necessarily take away our anxieties or fears about our own death, or our sadness about other people's deaths, but it does help us find ways to continue on with our lives."—Penny Colman

"A daring and satisfying approach to a difficult subject."—Publisher's Weekly, starred review

"Death, the last stage of the human condition, has been underreported and mostly avoided in writing for young people. Colman takes on the task with just the right mix of unblinking realism and sensitivity to varieties of beliefs and practices."—School Library Journal, starred review

"The author has a compassionate eye, and she manages to endow her topic with both humanity and humor."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"This solid, sensitive book answers a wealth of questions young people have but often are too reluctant to ask."—Booklist, starred review

Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
In death, as in life, it is the personal and particular that is most poignant. In this remarkable presentation of a fascinating subject, Colman uses her own experiences of death, and the ceremonies, rituals and emotions surrounding it, to lead the reader into an exploration of the place that disposal of human remains has occupied both historically and in our time. Colman does not shy away from grisly detail, but presents it to readers young and old, with sensitivity and a solid contextual grounding. A wealth of additional information is provided in a glossary, a chronology, a list of burial sites of famous people, sources, and a sampling of requests "when I die..." A thorough and compassionate look at some of the realities, and mysteries, of death.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up--Death, the last stage of the human condition, has been underreported and mostly avoided in writing for young people. Colman takes on the task with just the right mix of unblinking realism and sensitivity to varieties of beliefs and practices. The eight chapters explain decomposition, cremation, and burials; describe rituals and ceremonies from many times and places; and show the impact of death and loss on those still living through epitaphs and artworks--some humorous, some poignant. Extensive research is evident throughout the book, from the wide and knowledgeable coverage of cultures and past times to the impressive bibliography. Black-and-white prints, art reproductions, and photographs fill the pages. The author avoids being morbid by using a conversational tone, often referring to her own experiences and relating anecdotes told to her by others. She also balances grim facts about embalming and mourning with accounts of curious and witty gravestones and eccentric burial requests, turning the otherwise dark material into entertaining reading. Lists of significant dates in funereal history e.g., the beginnings of mound building, the first use of catacombs and a guide to burial sites of famous people complete the coverage. This is a book that answers many questions and introduces fascinating facts. It should find many readers.--Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805050660
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 12/15/1997
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,078,553
  • Age range: 11 - 16 Years
  • Lexile: 1190L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.63 (w) x 9.39 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Penny Colman is the author of many award-winning books, among them, Toilets, Bathtubs, Sinks and Sewers: A History of the Bathroom, a New York Public Library Best Book for Teens, and Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Homefront in WWII, an American Library Association Notable Book, a School Library Journal Best Book for Young Adults, and the winner of the Orbis Pictus Honor Award.

A popular guest speaker, Penny Colman lives in Englewood, New Jersey.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Corpses,coffins and crypts:A History of Burial

    This is a great book!!!! It has traditions from many cultures as for how they deal with death including burial. This book also includes what happens to the body after death and where it goes. Over all I thought this is a great book to learn about death and what each culture does with their deceased. It also includes folk lore and legend of each culture. I recommend it for young adults.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2013

    Medicine den

    Come here if you are feeling sick or injured.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2012

    Creepy

    This book is soo creepy

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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