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Paul Koudounaris holds a PhD in Art History and specializes in art in human bone and the cultural reception of death. His book The Empire of Death was the first study of worldwide Christian ossuaries and was named one of the 2011’s best books by London’s Evening Standard and the French edition was awarded Coup de Couer by the Association of Paris Librarians. His second book, Heavenly Bodies was released in 2013, and delved even deeper into study of obscure macabre art history by presenting the forgotten story of a group of skeletons taken from the Roman Catacombs in the seventeenth century and completely decorated with jewels by teams of nuns. The book described how these extravagant cadavers, known ascatacomb saints, were mistakenly identified as Early Christian martyrs, then sent primarily to German-speaking lands where they were decorated and placed into Catholic Churches. Such skeletons were mostly removed and destroyed during the Enlightenment, but Koudounaris tracked down surviving examples and photographed them for the book. The book received a tremendous amount of press, his images went viral ,and Koudounaris was dubbed “Indiana Bones” by the UK press, in reference to his curious and macabre discoveries, and the book was named by Dazed and Confused as one of the ten best art and photography books of the year
Koudounaris lives in Los Angeles and travels the world photograph and study death-related sites. You can visit his webiste at www.empiredelamort.com, and the Facebook page for the books The Empire of Death and Heavenly Bodies is www.facebook.com/empireofdeath. Book events for the publication of Heavenly Bodies included signings and lectures in UK, New York, and throughout Southern and Northern California and an exhibit of original images of the jeweled skeletons appeared at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles in November of 2013, images can be viewed on the exhibition page at the gallery’s website.