NZ’s early cemeteries, churchyards and urupā


New Zealand Cemeteries Unearthed Carved monuments, sprawling trees, crumbling headstones … historic cemeteries connect us to our past. They are outdoor archives that attract historians, anthropologists, photographers, family historians and the generally curious.

Unearthly Landscapes: New Zealand’s early cemeteries, churchyards and urupā is the first book to explore New Zealand’s burial places: how they developed and why they look the way they do.

The colonisation of New Zealand coincided with a period of great change in burial practices in Britain. Parish churchyards were becoming dangerously overcrowded, with decaying matter infiltrating the water supply and thought to be causing epidemics. Mounting public concern prompted their closure and the development of larger cemeteries on the outskirts of towns.

In New Zealand, Māori burial places had been a feature of the landscape for a thousand years. European contact and the influence of Christianity saw Māori increasingly adopt aspects of European forms of memorialisation, and of course the influences went the other way as well.

‘New Zealand’s cemeteries,’ says author Stephen Deed, ‘are a mix of the indigenous and exotic that typifies many other aspects of our culture, our built environment and the landscape.’ They are also a compromise between ideals and aspirations. ‘Settlers rarely had the funds or the leisure to create the carefully landscaped, park-like cemeteries that became fashionable in the old world.’

The economics of settlement, the ethnic and religious diversity of the colonists and the land itself all had a part in creating burial places unique to New Zealand.

Beautifully written and heavily illustrated, Unearthly Landscapes is a book for anyone who has wandered through ranks of old headstones and wondered about the past.

Unearthly Landscapes
NZ’s early cemeteries, churchyards and urupā

By Stephen Deed

Release Date: November 2015
paperback with flaps
ISBN 978-1-927322-18-5, $49.95