Torajan death rituals

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Death rituals of the Toraja. Source: National Geographic 201603

Archaeologists have an intrinsic relationship with the dead, since we deal with the past. So this story of the death rituals of the Toraja of Sulawesi should give us some pause for how we think about death and their archaeological signatures.

Death rituals of the Toraja. Source: National Geographic 201603

Death rituals of the Toraja. Source: National Geographic 201603

When Death Doesn’t Mean Goodbye
National Geographic, March 2016

This Community in Sulawesi, Indonesia Keeps the Dead in Homes for Years
Inverse, 25 March 2016

Cultures and societies respect the dead differently all around the world. Every year on my father’s side of the family, all my relatives gather at the cemetery where my ancestors are buried to take part in the Chinese ritual called Qingming, or Cleaning of the Grave. We lay out a full meal of chicken, duck, and rice, pour beer and tea, light candles, and even burn paper money so our deceased loved ones are comfortable in the afterlife. For the people living in the region of South Sulawesi, one of Indonesia’s 17,508 islands just east of Borneo, death is a long and sacred process — one where death does not come until the body leaves the home.

The Toraja of Sulawesi keep the bodies of the deceased in their homes for as long as a few years, believing “that a dead person who is still at home is not dead.” National Geographic documented the culture’s sacred tradition in a video, revealing their lavish celebrations for the dead. When a loved one passes away, the family members treat the body as if the person were still alive. They describe death as prolonged sleep. Torajans take the utmost care of the body, cleaning it and brushing off dirt, changing its clothes, praying with it, feeding it, and leaving the lights on in the evening.

Full story here.
Video here. [Warning: Imagery of the dead]

13th-century cemetary to be open to public

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17 June 06 (Viet Nam News) – A hidden complex of tombs from the Tran-Le Dynasty in the 13th century will be open to public in a bid to develop regional tourism. The tombs were hidden in caves on a sheer rock face, effectively cutting them from human access. While the development plans will include the building of roads and other tourist amenities to make the cave more accessible, there is also the tantalising prospect of other similar mortuary caves hidden in the region.

 

13th-century tomb to be open to public

Deep inside the relatively modest Pha Hang Mountain in the province of Thanh Hoa rests a treasure trove of coffins dating back to the 13th century.

The remarkable finds, about 160km from Ha Noi, have remained off limits to the public since their discovery a decade ago.

But now, provincial officials are opening the doors to the Tran-Le dynasties cemetery as part of VND22 billion programme to open the region to tourism.

While Pha Hang is far from grandiose, it’s sheer rock face has for centuries hid the bounty within.

That all changed in 1997 when a local villager ambled into the cave while searching for a runaway goat. What he found amazed archaeologists.

The 10m-high and 30m-deep cave was divided into three sections, like an ancient house, said Nguyen Gia Doi from the Archaeology Institute of Viet Nam. Two big doors let the air and sun into the cave, helping dry out the area.

There are more than 100 wooden coffins in all, ranging in size from large to small and containing the bodies of children and adults. Whittled from tree trunks, they line the walls of the cave, balanced on shelves carved into the rock. It is considered the largest cemetery of its kind in the country.

Doi, who has spent 10 years studying the find, believes the remains likely belong to members of the Thai ethnic minority who have lived in the area for thousands of years.

Read more about the mortuary caves in Thanh Hoa Province.