Revolutions in the Grave
May 6, 2016 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Many of history’s darkest figures were denied a formal burial place primarily to prevent their graves from becoming pilgrimage sites...... Such figures’ literal corporeal remains hold a persistent grip on our collective anxiety, their memories firmly planted in heritage discourses even as we attempt to efface their human remains from the landscape.
Paul Mullins, a historical archaeologist who has previously looked at humanizing Nazi everyday life, Eva Braun's underwear, the repugnant heritage of slavery, and selfies at Auschwitz, turns his attention to Dark Heritage and the Burial of Abhorrent Bodies.
posted by Rumple (7 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I personally have never understood the power that gravesites and physical remains of people seems to hold over a certain percentage of the populace. I've never been the sort to go visit gravesite of famous people or even of family members or close friends. I know this sort of makes me an outlier around the world.

That said, I understand the human desire for monuments to people who embody ideals of various stripes. And that these monuments might be the site of the physical remains of that person makes sense in my mind.

Isn't denying this sort of shrine why Osama bin Laden's body was quickly removed and buried at sea?
posted by hippybear at 10:21 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm still waiting for Spain to deal with the legacy of Franco, and his over the top burial site. My parents lived in Spain in the '50's, and a few years ago wanted to go back. My husband and I went along to facilitate. My parents thought we should see the Valley of the Fallen. It creeped me out, and the flowers for Franco felt so wrong, so I surreptitiously stepped on (the edge of) Franco's grave when no one was looking, as my small personal gesture of contempt.
posted by gudrun at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Interesting. I'm currently doing work on rivers. They were, back in the day, the frequent ending spot for tossing the despised.

One medieval account, the Mors Pilati, assures us that Pontius Pilate, condemned to death by the emperor Tiberius, chose suicide, after which his body was tossed into the Tiber, where evil spirits within reacted much as potassium does when hitting water.

Well, that was no good, so they took the body north and tried dumping him in the Rhone.

Same input, same output.

Finally, they took him to Switzerland and tossed the body in a crevice somewhere near Lausanne (Losania). No serious water, according to the original text, but the area carried a nasty miasma for years after. As far as I know, it has never been a place of pilgrimage.
posted by BWA at 11:34 AM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Mussolini is buried in a surprisingly elaborate tomb in his hometown of Predappio. As one might expect, the tomb has become a pilgrimage site for fascists.
posted by adecusatis at 2:32 PM on May 6, 2016

Falco has quite a grave, himself... Also a place of pilgrimage, apparently.
posted by hippybear at 6:55 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Isn't denying this sort of shrine why Osama bin Laden's body was quickly removed and buried at sea?

The most plausible explanation I've read is that it was basically turned into hamburger by the assassins.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:36 AM on May 7, 2016

The story about Finnish-German relations during WW2 was interesting. A while ago, I was staying in Helsinki with a Finnish friend; in conversation, she said that she had ancestry from another European country, but it wasn't particularly interesting, and she didn't mention which one. At the time, my guess would have probably been Russia, Poland or one of the Baltic states (for some reason, I was under the impression it wasn't Sweden), though now I'm wondering whether or not it may have been Germany.
posted by acb at 4:45 PM on May 7, 2016

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