The Death Letter Project
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Damien Stone | Archaeologist / Author

On thinking about death, I am reminded that the most beautiful thing in the world is the living human body. That is why it's harder to say goodbye to people, than it is to walk away from that alluring painting in the art gallery. Sometimes to make myself feel better, I tell myself that it's all just organic, degradable flesh and bone. But it doesn't work. Because however physically pleasing a body may be, it's not the fat, and the muscle, and the skin, but that animating spark buried within that leaves the impression of an individual's beauty. That divine inner presence that creates movement and gesture in what is otherwise just a meaty statue. What happens to that conscious after the body has gone, I can only say that I'm unsure, but hopeful...

My studies in archaeology have exposed me to a variety of myths and rituals that cultures throughout history have developed around death. The strong belief in an afterlife accounts for the survival of so much material culture in the form of grave goods.

One ancient symbol associated with death that has particularly captivated my imagination is that of the pomegranate fruit.

Many Ancient Greek burials featured images of pomegranates, in the hope of a positive afterlife experience for the deceased. This fruit was associated with the goddess Persephone, a divinity who died and was reborn annually to reflect the changing of the seasons. The association of the pomegranate with resurrection was adopted by early Christianity, and thus many medieval depictions of Jesus are flanked by pomegranates.

Whenever I cut open a pomegranate, out pours its blood evoking juice and I think of my mortality. Will my existence after death be as eternal as the number of seeds within the fruit's hard rind?

- Damien Stone

Archaeologist and author of 'Pomegranate: A Global History'.

Editor's note: Pomegranate: A Global History is part of The Edible Series, published by Reaktion Books. Further information...

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  • This is a truly eloquent, insightful and poetic piece of writing. Beautiful photo as well. - Pam Cossey (Facebook)
  • Agree - Colleen Pettiford (Facebook)
  • Gorgeous letter, Damien - Rosada Hayes (Facebook)