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

DIY Memorial Projects

There are many ways to honor the memory of a loved one. For those with a deft hand at crafts, there are a number of home projects that can help you memorialize your loved one’s life. This article w...

Why Sending Flowers to a Funeral is Important

Flowers have been a vital part of burial rites for most of human history. In fact, humans have been using flowers in funeral rites for over 60,000 years. While ancient peoples did not usually have ...

Going Back to Work After Losing a Loved One

After the loss of a loved one, it can be a difficult process to return to the workplace. While work can help you get back to a routine, for many people getting back to “normal” can feel impossible....

Grief and National Tragedies: the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks

Every year, Americans remember those we lost in the tragic 9/11 attacks in 2001. Now, on its 20th anniversary, it is important to look to those who are experiencing personal grief today.  Per...

Do I Need A Will?

A Will is an important document for establishing how your assets are distributed upon your passing. Most people think that they do not need a Will until they own a house or have children. But, it i...

A Beautiful Metaphor for The Stages of Grief: Gris

Grief can be processed and expressed in a number of ways, as we have discussed many times on this blog. And while we all experience it in a wide variety of ways, there are some common experiences t...

Accepting How Your Loved One Died

Grief is a powerful and complex emotion, especially when coping with the loss of a loved one. For many people, confronting the cause of death can be a difficult process. However, it can be an impo...

Improving Longevity in Your 50's

Your fifties should be the age where you can start to wind down; but unfortunately, it is also when many people really start to feel the effects of aging. It can be a good time to reflect and make ...

Helping Teens Cope With Parental Loss

The loss of a loved one is never an easy shoulder to bear, much less so when you are a teenager. The loss of a parent or guardian can weigh heavily on the mind and spirit. It can be hard to find co...

How Long After Death is the Funeral Held?

Most funerals tend to happen only days after a loved one’s death, but how long after death are most funerals held? What determines the timeline for the funeral? How long after a loved one’s death d...