Ancient Funeral Rites

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Monday, September 14, 2020

    Humans have found different ways to honor the dead throughout history. Almost every culture had rites for the dead. The first burial site from paleolithic human cultures is estimated to be roughly 50,000 years old. While practices have been modernized with the times, it is intriguing to see how changes to funeral practices have evolved throughout history. 

The First Coffins

    While caskets today are built to be wide, early coffins were built to tightly fit around the bodies. Around 10,000 years ago, the first known coffins were crafted for the dead to be placed in caves. Residue on the coffins suggests that they were decorated and painted ceremoniously. Various trinkets, garments, and food were buried along with the deceased. These coffins were stacked in piles on top of each other. Conceptually, these caves were the precursor to mausoleums, which we still see today. 

Burial Mounds

    Many ancient societies across the globe buried the dead in burial mounds. Burial mounds are raised hills of stone and dirt meant to inter the dead. These artificial hills would be created to house the remains of the dead. Smaller mounds may be used for individuals or families. Larger mounds were able to house remains over generations, or important individuals. Many burial mounds were adorned on the inside with art, and rooms may have contained grains, herbs, and other items. One of the oldest and most famous burial mounds is Newgrange, found in Ireland. It was most likely built around 3200 B.C.E. It predates both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Cremation

    Cremation is also a fairly ancient practice. Modern methods help ensure the body is converted to ash, but funeral pyres can be traced back as far as 20,000 years, in Australia. Ancient Greece and Rome often used cremation processes, especially for fallen warriors. Both societies also built columbariums, to house and display urns. This practice was also used to help limit the spread of diseases. The rise of Christianity in this region reduced the popularity of this practice. 

Viking warriors are famous for their cremation practices. Fallen Viking warriors were placed on boats. These boats were filled with their possessions, food, and even slain slaves, and set alight on the water.

Body Preservation

    Ancient Egypt is well known for the pyramids, but also their mummies. Mummification was a way to preserve the body, and to reduce the smell of decay. Priests would use natron along with spices, oil, and wine for preservation. Taoist Chinese traditions had families brush the deceased in talc powder for preservation and cleanliness. Modern preservation techniques are used by morticians to ensure that the deceased looks and smells presentable for open-casket funerals.

For over 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

 

Leave a comment
Name*:
Email:
Comment*:
Please enter the numbers and letters you see in the image. Note that the case of the letters entered matters.

Comments

Please wait

Previous Posts

Celebrating the Birthday of a Loved One Who Has Passed

Anniversaries and holidays can be difficult after the passing of a loved one. This can also be true for their birthday. It can be a painful reminder of absence in your life; but also a reminder of...

Ash Scattering Ceremonies: What to Say

It can be hard to come up with a eulogy for a funeral, but many people at least know how one should sound. As many people have less experience with ash scattering ceremonies, it can be harder to r...

LGBTQ+ Rights for Funerals

English poet John Donne once stated, “Death comes equally to us all, and makes us all equal when it comes.” While this can be a comforting sentiment, it is important to know your rights, even when...

Matthew Funeral Home Reviewed as Top 3 in NYC

The Scamardella family is proud to announce that Matthew Funeral Home has been named as one of the Top 3 funeral homes in New York City, according to threebestrated.com. We have been proudly servin...

Cell Phone Etiquette at Funerals

Funerals are a time of mourning, but they can also be a source of reconnection for friends and family. As such, it can feel like the time to pull out your phone and reconnect with those you have no...

Losing a Sibling

Grief is a very normal response to losing a loved one, but when you lose a sibling; your grief can be confusing. The loss of a sibling can be painful, and hard to overcome. But you have the right t...

Grief and the Death of an Elderly Loved One

Grief affects us all differently, especially when the one we lost was a huge part of our lives. After the loss of an elderly individual, grief can be a strange thing. On one hand they lived a full...

Freedoms of Ceremony During the Pandemic

    Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the whole nation is feeling losses. Many families were separated from their loved ones as they fought a losing battle to this disease. Additi...

5 Yoga Poses to Help Maintain your Health

Yoga is a great way to improve your health. Yoga offers you a good opportunity to stretch your muscles and work on balance; which are both important for staying healthy as you age. 1 in 4 seniors w...

Memorials and Processing Grief

During times of isolation, the loss can feel even heavier than usual. New York City, along with the rest of the world, is going through an extremely difficult time. We feel isolated from our loved ...