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By Allan Kellehear

Our stories of demise were formed via historic principles approximately demise and social accountability on the finish of existence. From Stone Age principles approximately death as otherworld trip to the modern Cosmopolitan Age of demise in nursing houses, Allan Kellehear takes the reader on a 2 million yr trip of discovery that covers the most important demanding situations we'll all ultimately face: waiting for, getting ready, taming and timing for our eventual deaths. it is a significant evaluation of the human and scientific sciences literature approximately human loss of life behavior. The historic strategy of this ebook locations our fresh photos of melanoma loss of life and treatment in broader historic, epidemiological and worldwide context. Professor Kellehear argues that we're witnessing an increase in shameful varieties of death. it isn't melanoma, middle affliction or scientific technological know-how that provides smooth loss of life behavior with its maximum ethical checks, yet fairly poverty, getting older and social exclusion.

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Whatever it was that enhanced our survival as a species, the day-to-day experience of life – and death – remained highly fragile and fraught with hazards from birth to senescence – senescence for the lucky handful that ever made it. From some 200 remains of Stone Age people we can deduce that ancestral humans lived to about 36 years on average and rarely beyond 50 (Klein 1999: 556; Bronikowski et al. 2002). They experienced high infant mortality and low life expectancy, as indeed contemporary hunter-gatherers often still do.

Inheritance for the dying Thomas (1999: 654) argues that the motivation for burial practices lies in the realm of religious belief and eschatology – areas inaccessible to archaeologists. This is a territory of speculation and when we attempt to develop a social picture of dying in the Stone Age we must recognise that this is the kind of exercise with which we are firmly engaged. However, we can gain clues from recent ethnographic description and we can discipline our speculation by tempering our thinking with reason.

In Upper Palaeolithic cave art, Clottes & Lewis-Williams document and interpret the shifting and blended images of part human and part animal pictures as central to these hallucinatory features of shamanism. The well-known otherworld journeys of Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, Taoist China (Couliano 1991) or medieval Christianity (Zaleski 1987) all have as their historical foundation, if not their neuropsychological foundation, the now largely forgotten otherworld journeys of the Stone Age. We can only rehearse some comparatively recent examples of these journeys as illustrative and analogous examples of ones we can no longer access.

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