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Memento Mori

The Dead Among Us

Paul Koudounaris


A fascinating journey to the world’s most macabre sites from the author of Heavenly Bodies and The Empire of Death

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Paul Koudounaris ventures beyond the grave in this spectacular and thought-provoking survey of human remains used in decorative, commemorative or devotional contexts across the world today.

From Bolivia’s ‘festival of the little pug-nosed ones’, where skulls are festooned with flowers and given cigarettes, to Indonesian families who dress mummies and include them in their household routine, via naturally preserved Buddhist monks and memorials to recent genocides, this dramatic book defies taboo to demonstrate how the dead live on across the globe.

The book’s inventive visual presentation by top design studio Barnbrook rejects gloomy clichés in favour of bright colours, delicate frames and eloquent motifs that echo some of the folk traditions featured in these pages.

Koudounaris is a gifted narrator, vividly recounting the stories and traditions that lie behind his ghoulish but beautiful photographs, which reveal that in many places, the realms of the living and the dead are nowhere near so distinct as Western society would have us believe.

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'In the midst of life, you need a good book about death. This is it'
Fortean Times

'This is an engrossing, albeit unsettling, read'
Royal Photographic Society Journal

'A visually disturbing study of human remains as used around the world in decorative, commemorative, or devotional rites, guaranteed to make your hair stand on end'
Birmingham Post

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Further Details


Format: Hardback without Jacket

Size: 33.0 x 22.0 cm

Extent: 216 pp

Publication date: 16 March 2015

ISBN: 9780500517789

Contents List

Introduction: Memento Mori • The Dead Will Rise: Macabre Masterpieces of the Nineteenth Century • The Gates of Paradise: Bones and Salvation in the Christian Tradition • They Walk Among Us: Mysterious Burial Caves in Asia • Blessed Souls: Elaborate Ossuaries in the Catholic World • They Shall Not Perish: Memorials in Bone to Victims of Tragedy • Remains to be Seen: Mummies and other Exquisite Corpses • Crossing the Border: The Living and the Dead in Bolivia • Heavenly Glory: Decorated Bones from Around the World

About the Author

Paul Koudounaris has a doctorate in Art History from the University of California and has written widely on European ossuaries and charnel houses for both academic and popular journals.