The Bone Doctor: Dr. Paul Koudounaris and Memento Mori
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The Bone Doctor: Dr. Paul Koudounaris and Memento Mori

The underground Brno Ossuary in the Czech Republic, 2nd largest boneyard in Europe. Photo by Dr. Paul Koudounaris

In the introduction to his book 'Memento Mori', Dr. Paul Koudounaris retells a story about his guide on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, who, after inquiring about the local traditions of mummification, led him to a family that was keeping the remains of a young mummified girl. 'They treated it as a daughter,' explained the guide, 'having sensed that it felt lonely and abandoned.' Koudounaris asked the guide if he considered it unusual to keep mummies in the home and says that his response was unforgettable. 'No,' he writes, 'he did not find it unusual, because when he was a boy, he and his brothers slept in the same bed as the mummy of their grandfather.'

Experiences like this have inspired Dr. Koudounaris to concentrate more than twelve years of work on removing the stigma that most 'civilized' societies have to the patronage of death. The historian and photographer has now traveled more than 250 sites in more than thirty countries on four continents hoping to document arcane and yet in many cases very modern rituals of societies worldwide as they cope with and even celebrate the dead, the ancestral and physical remains.

With a doctorate in Art History, Koudounaris says openly that his primary purpose with the three books he has produced on the topic is to re-contextualize these burial sites in an aesthetic context. From monuments to the mass genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia, South American tombs to Italian and Thai mummies, his latest book, 'Memento Mori', is the third in a trilogy of photography essays concentrating on the traditions and rituals of the dead worldwide.

Find out more about the other two books, 'The Empire of Death' and 'Heavenly Bodies', at his website, Purchase 'Memento Mori' and keep updated via his Facebook page, or follow him on Instagram.