Burials: From Ancient Pyramids to Modern Day Cremation

Burials: From Ancient Pyramids to Modern Day Cremation

Burial is a ritual act where we lay our deceased loved ones into the ground, often with fond belongings and prayers or speeches. However, the picture of a traditional burial like this has evolved through the centuries. Now there is much more to burial and many alternatives to this centuries-old human tradition.

A Quick History of Burial

The earliest known burial was discovered in Qafzeh, Israel. A group of 15 skeletal remains were found along with their artifacts. However, scientists believe that prehistoric Neanderthals were the first to bury their dead. In many ancient cultures, burial rites were elaborate and even anticipated. The Egyptians created pyramids, the Scots built megalithic stone dolmens, and the Aztecs and Mayans set up ancient temples.

Burials Today

Today many people, especially Christians, still believe in the traditional way of burying the dead. There are, however, emerging methods that are becoming mainstream. Consider, for example, cremation. Cremation is not entirely a new concept. In India it is a privilege to be cremated – cremation itself is a custom that dates back to Buddha’s time. In Japan cremation is a mandatory procedure. With the advent of modern day cremation, many are still unaware of its benefits. Cremation is more affordable than traditional burial, more flexible (you can keep the ashes in the urn, put them in a columbarium, or scatter them at a memorable place like a reef) and by far one of the most environmentally-friendly ways to bury our loved ones.

There are still many other methods of burying the dead, many of which have cultural origins. Some include:

Sky burial – Done primarily in Tibet, other Chinese provinces, and India. The Tibetans believe that in leaving the dead body of their loved one in the mountaintop, his/her soul unites with the sky or the sacred realm.

Cryonics – Cryonics, the process of freezing and storing the body of a diseased, is still a debatable method because of its aim of preserving life after a person is pronounced legally dead. This is not a popular method and only 270 people have been cryonically preserved as of 2013.

Resomation – As opposed to cremation, this method uses heated water and potassium hydroxide to “melt” the deceased’s body at first. Then the bones are reduced to “ashes” just like cremation and handed over to family.

Green Burials

The Green Movement has become so popular in the past few decades that even burials have become an experiment in its effectiveness. Some of the most popular green burials nowadays are memorial reefs, natural burials, promession, or even organic burial pods.

Memorial reefs are special places in the sea reserved for the scattering of the ashes of our loved ones. These are artificial reefs designed to resemble, for example, the Lost City, where family members can periodically visit their loved ones, a burial rite that expresses the belief in life after life.

Since 1998, the natural burial movement has caught on. The idea is to let the body decompose naturally into the ground without the process of embalming and the use of coffins and vaults. Instead, a biodegradable casket is used.

Promession follows the same concept of cremation, but instead of using high temperature to reduce the body to ashes, it freezes and crystallizes it. Freeze drying was a new concept in the 1990s created by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak.

The Capsula Mundi project is another new green burial method that emerged just recently. This involves a very quirky yet symbolic way of burying loved ones: The body of the deceased is contained in an egg-shaped capsule, buried into the ground, and a tree is planted on top of it. This tree has been chosen while the person is still alive, and will be nurtured by family members when their loved one has passed.

Whichever type of burial you have chosen for yourself or a family member, remember that with National Cremation dignified and affordable burial services are just a call away. If you need information regarding prearranging and immediate need services, please don’t hesitate to contact us or call one of our local offices near you.

National Cremation has been helping families decide how they want to plan their cremation and burial since 1973. Cremation as an option has many benefits, and we hope this article has been insightful to you. To find out more about pricing on cremation and burial services, contact us and get a free quote today.


Special thanks to Dorsey Thomas, Location Manager and Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer of National Cremation Atlanta, GA for his support and contributions to this post.

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