ABSTRACT

Following the publication of Dead But Not Lost (Goss & Klass 2005), I began to look for evidence of continuing bonds in ancient Mesopotamia (broadly modern Iraq and parts of Syria). I was skeptical because the traditional scholarship claimed that the dead were hostile ghosts, lurking about with intent to wreak harm and havoc on living relations. The accepted thinking was that the living employed a periodic ritual to feed and water the spirits of the deceased, to keep them at bay and firmly harnessed to their bleak netherworld existence. However, when we look at the ancient documents and artifacts through the lens of concepts from continued bonds research, another story comes to light. Instead, we find generations of the deceased actively remembered, fêted, and kept present in the embrace of the living family. I focused on the second millennium bce evidence, as that is when the private, non-royal references to a remembrance ritual began to appear in the texts.