Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
Grave takes a ground-level view of how burial sites have transformed over time and how they continue to change. As a cemetery tour guide, Allison C. Meier has spent more time walking among tombstones than most. Even for her, the grave has largely been invisible, an out of the way and unobtrusive marker of death. However, graves turn out to be not always so subtle, reverent, or permanent.
While the indigent and unidentified have frequently been interred in mass graves, a fate brought into the public eye during the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice today is not unlike burials in the potter’s fields of the colonial era. Burial is not the only option, of course, and Meier analyzes the rise of cremation, green burial, and new practices like human composting, investigating what is next for the grave and how existing spaces of death can be returned to community life.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.