The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death
Do cannibals exist? Is there evidence for contemporary human sacrifice? What are vampires? The Buried Soul charts the story of the human response to death from prehistory to the present day. At some moment in human history, our ancestors invented "death." Retracing four million years, this book investigates the many ways that humans, in facing death, first understood what it was to be alive. Their dramatic confrontation with mortality survives in early accounts of sacrifices, in blindfolded bodies preserved in peat bogs, and in the elaborate burials of disabled or deformed individuals among Neanderthals and the people of the Ice Age.Timothy Taylor has spent his life sifting through the relics of encounters with death. In The Buried Soul, he gathers evidence of how the ancients saw their universe and asks how we came to have not only a sense of the afterlife but also an image of the soul. After we began to speak but before we could write, Taylor suggests that early humans, in an astonishing conceptual leap, divided the body from the spirit that animated it. Rituals arose that attempted to placate, tempt, scapegoat, destroy, or contain this potentially malevolent spirit. Death was seen as a form of birth that set loose not only souls but also deities. Appeasing them required rites so powerful they have echoed down through the ages to make macabre new puzzles for archaeologists and forensic scientists.In Taylor's radical investigation of the human soul we encounter vampirism, cannibalism, near-death experiences, modern-day human sacrifice, and modern mummification. His search spans all of human prehistory and history through to the present and interweaves the author's own experience of the bewilderment of death.