The Evolution of Funerals
Funerals have been around for a very long time. They are a way to honor life and to take care of the human remains. Burial and cremation rituals have been customized to reflect the social values of a particular group of people.
As the first blog, Changing Face of Funerals I, suggests, both in-ground placement and remains stored in containers long ago emerged as the two most common choices. While that article explored traditions that occurred at much earlier times, here is a look at our ‘more recent’ customs.
7 AD America: Native Burial Grounds: Buried with jewelry, tools, food, and in different body positions depending on their age, sex, or social status.
300 AD Italy: Roman underground catacombs: Placed in the graves were paintings, statues, and ornaments. Inscriptions indicated how loving the deceased was, social rank or job title.
500 AD Mexico: Mayans cached objects and buried relatives within their residences. The house and contents were burned down and a new one built in place.
750 AD England: The rock-cut graves of Heysham are one of the earliest examples of Christian burial. Six body-shaped graves are cut into sandstone which were preserved for the privileged only.
950 AD Scandinavia: Vikings believed that the way to the after-life was by boat. Sendoffs for Viking warriors were on burning ships, and some were buried in a ring of stones laid out in the shape of a boat.
1500 AD Hawaii: A fire was lit over the buried deceased that burned for tend days. The bones were preserved, as it was believed the bones held divine power.
1532 AD Peru: Although most deceased Incas were mummified and entombed, some were sewn inside a llama hide. A face was shaped on the outside, and body was kept this way inside the family home.
1800 AD United Kingdom: To prevent body snatching, graves were bricked over. The fear of a loved one being buried alive inspired bells to be placed on the graves connected to a chain inside the coffin.
1909 AD America: The first motorized hearse built in Cincinnati, Ohio by Crane & Breed. It has a top speed of 30 mph.
1979 AD Germany: The plastination process preserves bodies or body parts with a clear hardening resin for anatomical education purposes.
1993 AD England: The first natural-burial cemetery is created. The body is returned to the earth free of preservation or disinfectants and is enclosed in a biodegradable coffin or shroud.
1997 AD America: Space launch burials aboard rockets bring one’s cremated remains into the earth’s orbit or the moon, for a never-ending journey.
2007 AD Scotland: Resomation, aka Aquamation, is a new process for disposal of remains, similar to cremation but using an alkali solution heated to 350 degrees for three hours leaving only skeletal remains.