A BRADFORD academic has been leading a project looking at how ancient civilisations dealt with death, and considering what we can learn from them.

The Continuing Bonds project brings together archaeologists and health and social care workers in a unique partnership that looks how history can help modern society deal with the often difficult-to-discuss topic.

The two-year project ends this summer, and this week some of its findings are on display in the University of Bradford’s Gallery II. The exhibition coincides with Dying Matters week.

The project is a partnership between the university and LOROS Hospice in Leicester, and has been led by Dr Karina Croucher, a lecturer in archaeology at Bradford.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council awarded the team £195,832 to carry out the project.

Over the two years the team has spoken to health and social care workers, students, counsellors, hospice workers and others who deal with people in their final days.

They have discussed how cultures have dealt with death throughout time, looking at mummification, placing dismembered bodies in burial caves and even keeping the bodies of relatives in their home for an extended period following their death.

As well as findings of the project and details of ancient cultures, the exhibition also features ‘cave painting’ style artworks, created by the 187 people who have taken part in it so far.

Dr Croucher said: “In a lot of the workshops we’d be talking about archaeology and how other civilisations dealt with death, and then in minutes people were talking about their own experiences. Using the past is useful to challenge our own way of thinking about death and dying.

“What we found was that some of the most shocking material got the biggest response. In some remote parts of Indonesia they keep the dead in their home in a mummified condition. People had really strong reactions to that idea.

“It is interesting to see how different people think some ways of dealing with death and dead bodies are fine and others are abhorrent.

“The project is all about getting people to think differently. We are using the past as a way of getting into a difficult topic. Sometimes looking at how people in the past dealt with death can be an easy way into looking at your own experiences and feelings.”

People can give their own feedback on the project at the exhibition, which runs until Friday. The gallery is open from 11am to 4pm.