Definitions

potter clay

Potter's field

A potter's field is a place for the burial of unknown or indigent people.

Origin

The term comes from the story in the New Testament of the Bible, in which Jewish priests take 30 pieces of silver returned by a repentant Judas. "The chief priests picked up the coins and said, 'It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.' So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day."

The traditional site of this is in the valley of Hinnom, which was a source of potter's clay. This may be the origin of the name.

Examples

  • Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park and Bryant Park in New York City originated as potter's fields. The city's current potter's field, and the largest cemetery in the United States with at least 800,000 burials, is on Hart Island.
  • Potter's Field was also the name of a small cove of the East River just below the Williamsburg Bridge on the Brooklyn side, where bodies that have been in the river from November through the winter season surface in April as the rising temperature causes them to decompose and rise to the surface. The fluid dynamics of the East River causes a collection of these bodies every year off the docks of Potter's Field.
  • Hudson County Burial Grounds
  • Hart Island (New York)
  • Washington Square (Philadelphia)
  • Potter's Field (Omaha) in Omaha, Nebraska
  • Potters Fields, London, SE1, near the London City Hall and St Olave's Grammar School
  • Toronto, Ontario had a Potter's Field at the corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets. The burial grounds were closed with some of the bodies moved to other cemeteries. Unknown number of bodies remained on the site when it was built over. Today the grounds are part of the posh Yorkville district, and the site of an office tower.

Popular culture

  • A documentary about potter's field by Melinda Hunt Hart Island: An American Cemetery
  • From Potter's Field is a novel by Patricia Cornwell.
  • Potter's Field is an album by the rock band 12 Stones.
  • On the title track to Johnny Cash's album American IV: The Man Comes Around, the lyrics include a reference to "the potter's ground" as a metaphor for dying without salvation.
  • "Potter's Field" is also the name of a song by heavy metal band Anthrax from the 1993 album Sound of White Noise.
  • Hart Island (New York), the Potter's Field in New York City is featured in the film Don't Say a Word.
  • Tom Waits makes references to Potter's Field in several of his songs.
  • The Potter's Field is the name of one of the Brother Cadfael detective books by Ellis Peters, later turned into a television episode.
  • Potter's Field is a development by the greedy banker Potter in the Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life.
  • In the long-running MUD GemStone IV an area called the "Potter's Field" is the primary spawn area for zombies. The area's descriptions are, indeed, of a long-disused graveyard for the indigent and unknown.
  • Similarly, in City of Villains a massive graveyard called "Potter's Field" is a place where zombies spawn, while magicians use the area for necromantic rituals.
  • In the HBO drama Oz (TV Series), "Potter's Field" is the name for the cemetery where deceased prisoners with no next-of-kin or whose remains are unclaimed are buried
  • "No Eagle Lies in Potter's Field" is the name of a song by the rock band On A Pale Horse.
  • Potter's Field is the title of an ongoing comic book series written by Mark Waid and published by Boom! Studios.
  • Boy actor, Bobby Driscoll (Peter Pan, 1953), was unidentified at the time of his burial, but it is now confirmed that he is buried in Potter's Field.
  • In Sam Fuller's Pickup on South Street (1953), tie saleswoman "Moe" [Thelma Ritter] is saving up money for a funeral so she won't to be laid to rest in Potter's Field: "Look, Tiger, if I was to be buried in Potter's Field, it would just about kill me!"
  • In the television movie/series "Glory Enough for All", the character Frederick Banting indicates that a soldier he was trying to save is dead by saying "Another one for Potter's Field".
  • In Victor Hugo's Les Misérables Jean Valjean is buried in Potter's Field

References

External links

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