Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Sarah Meacham


The thesis traces the history of colonial Virginia in an attempt to uncover the origins of several peculiarities in Virginia death-ways. Elite Virginians buried at home more often than not (where they could protect the dead from animal desecration), while avoided death’s heads, reapers, and bone based tomb and mourning jewelry iconography even though such was popular throughout the British Atlantic. Research done for this thesis reveals a fear on the part of elite Virginias regarding questions of both corpse desecration and natural putrefaction. The cause of this cultural obsession lie in two facts: The blackening of the early colony’s reputation by warfare with Native Americans and the cannibalism associated with the Starving Times, and later the casual violence inherent in the slave system. Virginia’s elite disregarded images of decay and death and embraced symbols of stability both the legitimize Virginia as a place for Europeans to settle, and to disguise the barbarity of their economic system.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2013

Included in

History Commons