The Archaeology of Loss

Sarah Tarlow

20 April 2023
507 pages


My whole adult life, I have made a study of death.

A stunning blend of the personal and professional, The Archaeology of Loss is Sarah Tarlow’s first memoir. An accomplished archaeologist, much of Sarah’s work is concerned with the ritual and belief behind the practice of grief. In 2012, she was awarded the Chair in Archaeology at the University of Leicester. But in the years that followed this appointment, Sarah’s husband, Mark, would begin to suffer from a progressive but undiagnosed illness, finally resulting in his inability to drive, to walk, to taste or to care for himself. Though Sarah had devoted her professional life to the study of emotion, of how we anticipate and experience grief, nothing could have prepared her for the realities of care-giving, of losing someone you love and the helplessness attached to both.

A fiercely honest and unique memoir, The Archaeology of Loss describes a collective experience with an unflinching and singular gaze and will undoubtedly speak to listeners of The Salt Path and H is for Hawk. Told with humour, intelligence and urgency, this is an unforgettable experience.

Extraordinary, unflinching, wonderful, moving
'Bracingly candid . . . Digs away at our collective fantasy that in dying or caring for the dying we are at our best. In reality, in either role we are often withdrawn, in pain, resentful, bad-tempered: our worst . . . addictively unsentimental'
In Archaeology of Loss Sarah Tarlow has harnessed the consoling power of unvarnished truth. Direct, honest and deeply compassionate, this book is a companion for anyone navigating the hardships of loss and uncertainty, but it's also a celebration of all that love can stretch to hold. Informed by both Tarlow's lived experience and perspective as an archaeologist, it asks vital questions about what it means to live and die well. I found it both thought-provoking and moving.