My time in Huntsville proved to be unexpectedly eclectic, however my initial reason for visiting was simply to visit the prisoners' cemetery, where all those who die whilst in the "care" of the Texas justice system, and whose bodies are not claimed by family, are buried. Now it may seem like a macabre thing to visit, but I found it a sobering and important place to have seen. The cemetery is surprisingly large, unadorned and unmarked, occupying a wasteland between two nondescript roads on the edge of town. No signs announce or inform the passer-by as to the site's identity, no fence separates it from its surroundings. Every expense has been spared. So much so that up until 2000 the graves were marked by a simple concrete cross inscribed with a date of death and prisoner number. Nothing more. Not even a name by which the deceased could be remembered. As if in death these people are no longer considered humans but simply numbers, a burden to be placed in the ground, a sack of shit that has the temerity to waste our tax-payer dollars.
I love cemeteries, they're fascinating places. Often, if you care to look closely, they can tell you stories of a past that isn't written in history books, or is actively ignored or suppressed, or that is simply more personal and human than can possibly be conveyed on paper. So I'm taking this opportunity to take on a tour of some of my favourite graveyards, tombs, sepulchres and mausoleums (mausolea) and the hidden stories they tell.
|It's no secret that Japan's a country where space is at a premium. Not only do people live in what would pass for a medium-sized walk in cupboard in Texas, but they pack their dead pretty tight too.|
The following three photos all come from the same cemetery in L'viv and beautifully illustrate its heritage as a mixed city, at the confluence of many different cultures (but also at the same time the source of tensions as different groups claim the city as their "own").
|A German soldier who died on the Eastern front.|
|A Polish lady of the bourgeoisie who died in the late 19th century.|
|The Soviet gymnast Viktor Chukarin, who dominated the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.|
And in archaeology perhaps the majority of research and findings come from examining tombs, either from the grave goods or the bodies themselves. In a sense here the dead really do speak to us and inform us of what life was like back then.
|Owl sceptre top from the Lord of Sipan tomb complex, the richest and most complete funerary site in all of South America, its discovery shone a spotlight onto pre-Incan civilisations in Peru.|
And last, but by certainly no means least, my favourite cemetery.
|The Merry Cemetery in Săpânța, northern Romania. The oeuvre of a single carpenter who, with bright colours and humourous verses, transformed what is usually a place of grim mourning, to a joyous affirmation of life.|