Do All Dogs go to Heaven? My new research published today in @AntiquityJ! Join me on an archaeological journey of human-animal relationships through time in my survey of #PetCemeteries. A thread 1/18👇🏼🐶🐱… Image
Gravestones are full of fascinating information! They tell us so much more than who is buried where and when they died… Additional text, designs and symbolism can reveal how a society constructs social relationships, what they thought about death and peoples’ emotions. 2/18 Image
So, given this incredible data available to us, in this research I ask: what can pet cemeteries tell us about our changing relationship with animals through time? 3/18
In Britain, public pet cemeteries are recent phenomena. The first appeared in London’s #HydePark in 1881, after Cherry’s owner approached the gate keeper to bury the #MalteseTerrier in his fav park. The rest is history, as hundreds of pets share the final resting place. 4/18 Image
The cemetery survives but is in a fragile state. Access is limited but you can see glimpses of it through the fence on Bayswater Road. 5/18 Image
In summer 2018, I carefully recorded over 1,169 animal gravestones from 4 historic pet cemeteries in England, including Hyde Park, the PDSA cemetery in Ilford, a pet cemetery in #Northumberland park in North Shields, and one in Jesmond Dene, #Newcastle. 6/18 ImageImageImage
What did I find? Many early gravestones were of simple design and contain little information except for name and date. Here are a few examples from Britain’s first public pet cemetery in #HydePark @theroyalparks. 7/18 ImageImage
Many graves use the metaphor of sleep to represent death. This is common in Victorian cemeteries and we still use it today (e.g., ‘rest in peace’). It implies awakening, suggesting death is temporary. Snap and Peter’s epitaph reads: ‘We are only sleeping, Master’ 8/18 Image
A few graves suggest people were hopeful of a reunion. The concept of animal souls and reunification in a Christian heaven would have been controversial at the time! Grit’s epitaph says ‘Could I think we’d meet again; it would lighten half my pain’. 9/18 Image
Or this one for wee Bobbit (d.1901) “When our lonely lives are o’er and our spirits from this earth shall roam, we hope he’ll be there waiting to give us a welcome home”. 10/18 Image
As we progress into the 20th century, religious symbols (e.g., crosses) on animal graves increase in frequency. Epitaphs no longer hope for reunification; they are certain of it. The ‘brave little cat’ Dennie’s (d.1952) epitaph states ‘God Bless until we meet again’. 11/18 ImageImage
Increases in religious symbols and references to the afterlife do not necessarily mean that people suddenly believed animals went to heaven. Rather, they now felt free to publicly express this. Today, crosses are common animal grave markers (e.g., BuenaVista pet cem, #Leics)12/18 Image
Historically, it's common to find on gravestones the names of those remembering the dead. This practice is no different in pet cemeteries. In these examples, pet owners leave their initials at the bottom of the stone. Like Poppet’s friend R.M.J. or Cidi’s friend D.K.S. 13/18 ImageImage
Over the course of the 20th century, initials are starting to be replaced with family pronouns like ‘mummy’, ‘daddy’ or ‘auntie’, suggesting pets were being thought of as members of the family. (e.g., Pat remembered by Mum & Vic; Snoopy by Mum & Dad).14/18 ImageImage
We can also see this in later examples when gravestones include a family surname, further suggesting pets are members of the family, like Lassie Robson here. 15/18 Image
Emotional expressions of grief feature on gravestones from all periods. Jane’s grave notes she ‘brought sunshine into [her owner’s] lives but took it away with her’. While Chum’s owner expressed they are ‘so lonely without my doggie’. 16/18 ImageImage
Today, many bereaved feel alone in their grief and misunderstood by those who have never experienced such loss. Cemeteries reveal this has always been an issue. Luckily @bluecross provides bereavement support services to ensure no-one is alone. 17/18…
Many thanks to @theroyalparks, @SPMA and @UniofNewcastle for supporting this research! 18/18
If you would like to hear more about the #HydePark #PetCemetery. Register for our free event with @theroyalparks on Wednesday 28-10-2020. Details here:…
Ooops, tagged the wrong handle. Should have been @The_Blue_Cross

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