The Rich History of Funerals

August 24, 2015

The History of funerals and the rituals that accompany them help people express their feelings about certain events.

A dedication service or infant baptism will celebrate the birth of life. However, a funeral will symbolise the end of an era for a family and the end of life.

The funeral is rich in history and is a way to express grief and provide support and encouragement to the mourners.

But where did the idea of funerals come from and what is some of the history behind these funerals around the world? We know that funerals are an ancient tradition because researchers have found burial sites of Neanderthal man which date back to 60,000 BC.

The History of Funerals and a Timeline That stretches to the Beginning of Time

History of FuneralsThe most ancient funeral monuments were simple mounds of earth, or a heap of stones covering the body of the deceased.

4000 BC The Egyptians began embalming dead bodies
3400 BC Egypt becomes known for its mummy culture
1000 BC People have used cinerary urns made from clay since ancient times as vessels for ashes and bodily remains
353 BC The first Mausoleum was for the Carian ruler Mausolus
230 BC The Hokenoyama tomb in Japan is the oldest burial chamber we know
100 The Romans in the 1st century used columbariums – this was the name use for a structure containing many funerary urns
1632 Building of the Taj Mahal
1800 Draping of a coffin with a National Flag during the Napoleonic Wars
1830 Chinese burying their dead in the sides of mountains
1882 First meeting of the National Funeral Directors Association
1884 Cremation became legal again in England
1930 Funeral pyres in the open became illegal in the UK with the Cremation Act of 1930
1993 The first ‘green’ cemetery is inaugurated in the U.K.
2006 Launch of the 1st version of The Funeral Source online
2014 Customized urns for cremation made with 3D printers

History of Funerals – The start of Burial Societies

History of funeralsIn the U.S., until the 20th century, families organised funerals in the U.S. and held them at home. Also, family members were traditionally buried at home.

Funeral homes later started and many of the early undertakers were furniture makers, extending their services to the making of coffins. During the Civil War, it was the job of black soldiers to remove dead bodies from the battlefields.

Embalming became necessary in order to ship bodies back home. Because of their work on the battlefields, black slaves opened the first burial societies in the early 1900s. The history of African-American Funeral Services is involved, dating back to Ancient Egypt.

In ancient times, Indians buried their dead in burial mounds. They also exposed corpses on buildings called towers of silence and the bodies were devoured by vultures. Later pyres came into fashion. One of the most famous monuments in India and the world is the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built by the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan for his wife.

History of Funerals – Green Funerals the Latest Development

Customs and rituals have changed around the world the way people bury their dead. Today the emphasis is on saving the planet and the move towards green funerals. It seems we are coming full circle back to the most ancient funeral monuments made from earth and stones.

Whatever way funerals go, one thing everybody wants to believe in is that there is an afterlife that promises to be far better than the one we’re living here on earth.

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All info was correct at time of publishing