It was once thought that death was society’s great leveler. No matter how rich or poor one was in life, it did not matter in death. This naive perspective is now obsolete with the emergence of large and extravagant burial markers, unique ornamentation and ossification taken to the extreme. It appears as though that modern culture believes that one’s status in life can persist in the afterlife with money being the prime determinant. In other words, more money spent means more post-life prestige.
Due to the vast amounts of sampled interments and the tremendous lack of information gained from the burial markers, a proper analysis of the cemetery with respect to social stratification (between sections) might be impossible. Working with the given information, logical inferences were made to denote possible differences between the two.
When accounting for possible differences between sections, it appeared as though people buried in Section K seemed to have shorter life spans overall. However, when taking into consideration marker size, one would assume that people buried in Section K were either rich themselves, or were part of a family that was wealthy whose members took responsibility over their burial. There is of course the possibility that these people were not rich in any sense, but possibly their loved ones might have scrounged up all possible funds to provide a large, elaborate (otherwise impossible) burial that might promote a chance of esteemed status in the afterlife. But this would seem unlikely seeing how extreme mortuary ossification was exercised only by medieval royalty and the wealthy elitists, making this possibility highly improbable.
Section K did show a lower life expectancy than that of Sections B, C & D combined (approximately 7.5 years younger) but was not the lowest individual section. Section B was the lowest with an average life expectancy of 44.85 years, approximately 6.0 years younger than that of Section K. From the calculations, it would seem that the wealthy families that were buried in Section K lived a little less longer than those (less fortunate) buried in Sections B, C & D, who supposedly had less money in life. There are several extraneous factors that might play a role in this occurrence however. For one, the sample size of Section K (n=93) was considerably higher than each individual section, but was comparable when all three sections were combined (n=87), implying that a comparison between the two major sections would produce plausible conclusions (i.e. (rich) people buried in Section K lived shorter lives than (average or poor) people in Sections B, C & D). If this is the case, then money can buy happiness, but not long life. Another factor that must be taken into consideration is that Section K consisted of numerous infants, whose life expectancy (usually not exceeding more than 4 years) dramatically affected the overall mean decreasing it to a lower-than-actual value. The infant outliers produced a bimodal distribution located close to zero and one closer to 75 years of age, compromising a possible correlation with social status and life expectancy. The lack of infant burials in Sections B, C & D provide an accurate representation of life expectancies in lower class individuals. With the exclusion of infant burials, comparison between the life expectancy mean of Sections B, C & D and a recalculated mean for Section K would likely produce similar results.
All of the arguments suggesting that people buried in Section K were “better off” versus those buried in Sections B, C & D, were based on the initial assumption that Section K residents were wealthier than their counterparts simply because they possessed larger burial markers. While marker size might be a crude indicator of wealth and prosperity, it is the one of the few clues that provides possible insight into earlier times. Like it was said earlier, marker size might not have anything to do wealth. It has been known to happen that lower class individuals sometimes spend much more than they have (or wish to) to provide fallen loved ones with large, excessive markers. At the same token, rich society types might find it distasteful to spend substantial amounts of money for a lofty marker and decide to go for a more modest and smaller marker. Whatever the case may be, the assumption that marker size is proportional to wealth is simply that, an assumption. The fact of the matter is, markers in Section K are much larger and more noticeable than those in Sections B, C & D. But marker size was not the only argument used to formulate the assumption stated above. When considering the location of the burial plots in the two designated sections, one notes a striking difference. One is easily accessed, and one is not.
As seen from the map, Section K is located in the center of the cemetery and is encircled by the cemetery’s main road. Section K (along with Section I, M & N) houses the largest and possibly the oldest markers in Necropolis. This area is one of the larger and more populated sections (with the exception of the Section VNG on the east side of the cemetery) and is visible upon entry into Necropolis. Sections B, C & D on the other hand, are somewhat difficult to find, let alone get to. People visiting the west side of the cemetery are forced to trudge through several other sections in order to get to Section B, C & D. Even upon arrival in the section, the markers do not appear all that impressive, but rather unassuming in their small stature. Careful observation of both sections reveals that Section K is much better kept than Sections B, C & D. In addition to being accessible, the overall appearance of the immediate landscape suggests weekly (if not daily) housekeeping and gardening while the appearance of Sections B, C & D would make one wonder if anything is done there at all. Dead shrubs and bushes are clearly evident in the western side of the cemetery to the point where some markers (whose inscriptions are barely legible as is) are virtually unreadable. Cemetery employees appear to ignore these sections altogether and focus their attention on the newer sections in the center and eastern side of the cemetery. So if marker size is not a truthful indicator of status, then burial location must be. People who chose to bury their loved ones in Section K, were obviously more aware that it was prime territory compared to other parts of the cemetery. They would expend more funds in order to make it known that their loved ones are buried in great locations with great headstones. Markers in Section K were visually appealing and larger than traditional markers seen in other sections. Taking into account these two aspects, it is conceivable to reason that those buried in Section K with the larger markers were wealthier than those individuals in Sections B, C & D.
One thing that became evident during the sampling process was that residents of Section K were usually buried in bunches, that is they were family burials. One family burial plot even included 13 bodies within a ~4.0 square meter area. In contrast, burials in Sections B, C & D contained fewer bodies per plot. Although still familial in nature, these burials just contained fewer individuals when compared to those in Section K (less than half). The reasons for this may be vast in amount. It may be suitable to assume that higher-class families exemplified their status by being buried together as some symbol of family unity or singularity. There may be a sense of nobility associated with group burials and perhaps that is why perhaps Section K residents chose to be buried together in large groups rather than individually. The Durand family vault of 1847 may be a testament to this supposition. But from the logical point of view, one would expect familial burials to be more dominant in Sections B, C & D simply because their spatial distribution is much larger than that in Section K. Equating several bodies buried together in very close proximity of a neighboring plot seemed a little odd and unfavorable at best, and appeared to be more ideal in Sections B, C & D where spacing between burial plots was much better.
Lastly, the random sampling of burial markers produced rather positive results. Appendices A-2 & A-3 clearly indicate gender quantities within the sampling field (n=180; males=97 and females=83). Appendix A-2 indicates that a large majority of the people sampled was born in the mid 1800s, with one person being born prior to the 19th century and a few being born in the 1900s. Appendix A-3 illustrates the bimodal distribution with respect to age at death, with the highest quantities being children between the ages of 0-9 and adults between the ages of 70-79. The mean life expectancy of the entire sample was 54.36 years of age. When noticing the alarming number of infant deaths, several conclusions can be made. The most obvious one being that monetary resources was not enough to promote the physiological survival of a child in the 1800s. Infantile death was a harsh truth that even the wealthy had to live with during those times. Overall, the two graphs show that most members of the sampled group were born in the mid 1800s and lived to their mid 50s, with the males slightly outnumbering the females in the complete sample.
There were no statements made referring to cultural differences between the two groups because the sampled individuals from Sections K, B, C & D were primarily of Scottish and Irish descent. Multiculturalism in Toronto came about in the latter half of the 20th century. Prior to this influx of non-European immigrants, Toronto was predominantly Western European, with the Scots and Irish being the leading faction within the cemetery. This being said, it would seem futile to try to provide conjecture for ethnic differences that may have had a role back then. Interments of all races and backgrounds are now being seen in Necropolis but Western Europeans still contain the large majority of burial plots. Cross-cultural correlations with respect to social identities and ideologies would be to difficult to create using the available information and would not give justice or the proper respect to the large diversity of cultures in Toronto Necropolis.