Welcome to the first installment of the TalkDeath Quarterly News Update, where we recap all major events related to death that have happened over the past three months.
Your Quarterly Death Positive News Update – Q1 2023
Human Composting Updates
As people worldwide become increasingly interested in the idea of green burial, it is no surprise to see more laws being proposed and passed to allow various forms of green burial.
At the beginning of this year, New York became the 6th US state to pass Human Composting, also known as Natural Organic Reduction. According to the new law, “remains must be delivered to a cemetery corporation certified as an organic reduction facility, suitably contained and ventilated, and not containing “a battery, battery pack, power cell, radioactive implant, or radioactive device.”
As laws continue to pass, even more are being proposed. Bill H 6045 in Rhode Island could lead the state to becoming the next to allow human composting. Representative Michelle McGaw, who filed the legislative proposal, said her constituents appear to be interested for a variety of environmental reasons, including the preservation of open space, the reduction in carbon dioxide associated with composting and the lack of chemicals used. “In a much more general sense, people have reached out to me because they’re interested in doing things in a much more natural environment, and this seemed like a logical option,” she said.
Mystery Grave News
In archeological news, there continue to be mass graves uncovered. While these findings all happened in 2022, the information wasn’t released to the public until this year.
In Slovakia, archeologists discovered a 7000-year-old mass grave site containing 38 corpses– all but one decapitated. According to Insider, “Archaeologists are now trying to understand why the heads were so methodically removed. Was this meant as a warning, a funerary ritual, or a way to honor the dead?”
It’s unclear whether the bodies were decapitated before or after death, but it is clear that they were removed slowly and carefully with sharp tools opposed to the type of decapitation you might see from combat. Could this be a strange way to honor the dead? There have been many scenarios where heads were removed from bodies for a variety of reasons, like the shrunken heads documented in the northwest regions of The Amazon, thought to have used the heads to ward off enemies.
Another discovery was made in Leeds, England, uncovering a 1,600 year-old cemetery that could provide information regarding one of the most significant times in British history. Archaeologists hope this means the site can help them chart the largely undocumented and hugely important transition between the fall of the Roman Empire in around 400AD and the establishment of the famed Anglo-Saxon kingdoms which followed.
Kylie Buxton, on-site supervisor for the excavations said: “It is every archaeologist’s dream to work on a ‘once in a lifetime’ site, and supervising these excavations is definitely a career-high for me.
“There is always a chance of finding burials, but to have discovered a cemetery of such significance, at such a time of transition, was quite unbelievable.
“For me it was a particular honour to excavate the high-status lead coffin burial, but it was a great team effort by everyone involved.”
Around the world, trans people are being targeted in acts of violence and erasure. In 2023 alone, 44 US states have proposed anti-trans legislation. Eden Knight, a Saudi trans woman who was living in the US, died by suicide on March 15th after her family attempted to force her to detransition. Even after her death, she was misgendered and deadnamed by her family.
The Trevor Project 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45% of trans and gender nonconforming youth have seriously considered suicide. If you or someone you know is trans and struggling with suicidality or mental health crisis, reach out to Trans Life Line or The Trevor Project.
For ways to support trans people accessing gender affirming care when laws are being written to criminalize them, consider donating to the Trans Health Legal Fund.
You can read more about trans death rights here:
- Misrepresentation of Trans Dead, and Resources to Prevent it from Happening to You
- Necropolitics and the Erasure of Trans and Non-Binary Bodies in Death
- Trans-Death: Exploring Deadnaming Through a Death Positive Lens
- Trans Death Care Advocacy and Resources
Linda Williams, a 76 year old woman with terminal cancer, decided to have a party instead of a funeral. “I’ve never been to a good funeral, they’re miserable things, so I decided I wanted a celebration of my life,” she said. “I nearly died two weeks before it so I had a cardboard cut-out made just in case but I was able to be there with all my friends.”
Funeral parties are on the rise, as people begin to challenge the western traditions around death. With representation on shows like Grace & Frankie, we can’t wait to see more people choosing this option to celebrate their own life at the end of it.