60,000 B.C. to 50 B.C.
Life and death have always been connected even though we view them quite differently. We celebrate new life and mourn the passing of life. In both cases, the rituals and traditions reflect the beliefs and attitudes of a culture at a particular time in their history. Nowhere is this truer than in the changing face of funerals.
We have compiled a brief list of some burial and cremation customs dating all the way to the Neanderthal period. Over time, as societies became less nomadic, the practices became more complex. Here is the B.C. list:
60,000 B.C. Iraq: Archaeologists discovered that Neanderthal men were buried with flowers. This suggests evidence of a first funeral.
8,560 B.C.. Tibet: This sky-burial practice involved leaving a body on a mountain top or other elevated site where it would be consumed by wild vultures.
3,400 B.C. Egypt: Mummification became a predominate technique. Organs were removed and stored in jars and the body was preserved with chemicals. The basics idea of embalming is still practiced today.
1,323 B.C. Egypt: Wealth placed in tombs along with royalty. One of the most known examples of this is the Tomb of King Tut. He was placed in a golden sarcophagus many consider to be the world’s most expensive casket. It weighed 3000 lbs. and the gold has been estimated to be worth approximately $76.5 million dollars.
800 B.C. Greece: Records show that cremation had become the most common method to handling human remains. Deceased bodies were placed in an open fire, known as a funeral pyre.
500 B.C. Peru: the prehistoric Chavin culture dried the body and placed the organs in elaborately decorated cloths that were buried in the ground.
50 B.C. China: People were buried with figurines that depicted dancers, mythical beasts, everyday objects, or agricultural or urban landscapes.
Cultures all over the world have found ways to have meaningful sendoffs. And as technology (tools) advanced, so did their options. We are amazed at mankind’s creativity when it comes to honored loved ones who had died.
Next week’s Changing Face of Funerals II will take a look at death rituals from 7 A.D. to modern times.