Welcome to our second instalment of TalkDeath Quarterly News, where we update you on death related news from green burial to archaeological finds.
Your Quarterly Death Positive News Update – Q2 2023
Green Burial Updates
In June, Nevada became the sixth state in the US to legalize human composting (also known as Natural Organic Reduction). According to the Las Vegas Sun “The signing of Assembly Bill 289 into law during the recently concluded legislative session broadens the state’s rules on cremation to include the accelerated conversion of human remains to soil through the natural reduction of human remains, also known as natural organic reduction or human composting.”
This is a big step toward legalization in the US, as more states come on board with legislation moving in the direction of legalizing Natural Organic Reduction.
In Missouri, thousands of people have gathered to view the body of nun Wilhelmina Lancaster, whose body has shown little decay since 2019. We posted about this on Instagram, where an interesting conversation took place regarding the ethics of disturbing a body for religious or cultural purposes.
Many religions and cultures use methods of body preservation, and in this case, Sister Lancaster was not embalmed but her coffin was placed in a cold clay that slowed down the process of decomposition.
“When there is decreased oxygen flow, such as in a coffin, and in a cooler climate – such as the clay the coffin was in – could absolutely slow decomposition down,” said anthropology instructor Rebecca George, “The public rarely sees a human body at this stage of decomposition, so this is likely contributing to the interest we are seeing. If the remains were buried without clothing or not in a coffin in this type of soil, I would have expected them to be skeletal, but the type of preservation observed is typical given the coffin and clothing protecting the remains.”
In May, several remains of WWII soldiers were identified almost eighty years later. The remains were found “In 2017, the DPAA started exhuming the unidentified remains and sending them to a Nebraska Air Force base lab for identification, officials said. There, scientists used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence and DNA testing, to identify Howie.”
In additional archaeological news, scientists have found that a human relative, Homo Naledi, buried their own dead 100,00 years before modern humans did. While the findings cannot conclude if the human species did this with the intention of memorializing their dead the way we do, it does give us insight into prehistoric body disposition and brings up an interesting thought around why we memorialize our dead the way we do.
Long Live the Legend
On May 24th, we lost the 1980’s pop icon Tina Turner to a long term illness. Known as the Queen of Rock N Roll, Tina Turner was known for the classic songs such as Simply the Best and What’s Love Got to Do With It. When a celebrity with so much cultural prominence dies, there can be a collective grief we as an audience feels. It’s important to remember her impact on the world, especially as a Black woman and a proud queer ally and advocate for LGBTQ rights.