Death and burial rituals have been around for centuries and are essential to many cultures. From Tibetan sky burials to Ghana’s fantasy coffins, burial rituals are full of interesting details highlighting what’s important to a community.
In the United States, cremation is increasing in popularity. However, cremation isn’t something that was recently invented. Cremation has been around for centuries.
The history of cremation spans thousands of years and has evolved. This guide will discuss the origin of cremation and how American cremation differs from the ancient practice.
What’s the History of Cremation?
Burning a body after death has been done since prehistoric times. Evidence has been found that people were cremated in China around 8000 B.C.
Most scholars agree that cremation began in the early Stone Age, around 3000 B.C. Cremations took place in the Near East and Europe. Cremation started to appear in northern Europe at the end of the Stone Age. Decorative urns got found in western Russia dating back to that time.
During the Bronze Age (2500 to 1000 B.C.), cremation made its way to Spain, Portugal, and the British Isles. Cremation cemeteries started popping up in Ireland, northern Italy, and Hungary.
Cremation became essential to Grecian burial customs during the Mycenean Age, around 1000 B.C. It became the primary burial ritual over the next couple of hundred years.
Early Romans adopted cremation shortly after that. Cremation became so common that an official decree issued in the fifth century prohibited cremating bodies in the city.
While cremation was prevalent in many cultures during this time, it wasn’t commonly practiced by early Christians. Early Christians considered the act to be a pagan ritual. In Jewish culture, they traditionally used sepulcher entombment when a person passed away.
By 400 A.D., earth burial had replaced cremation throughout Europe. Earth burial remained the most widely used burial ritual for 1,500 years.
Modern Cremation in the United States
The cremation practice that we’re familiar with today began in the late 1800s. In Italy in 1873, Professor Brunetti created the first cremation chamber. In this chamber, bodies get reduced to ash using a closed space and high heat.
Cremation began getting used frequently in the United States and Europe. Doctors primarily employed it. Doctors were worried that burying a body could result in public health problems and disease.
Julius LeMoyne opened the first indoor cremation chamber in the United States in 1876 in Washington, Pennsylvania. The Catholic Church heavily criticized LeMoyne. The church viewed cremation as dangerous because it went against a traditional religious burial.
Other crematoriums started popping up throughout the United States. Many of the early American cremation chambers were owned by cremation societies.
Protestant clergy owned other crematoriums. These clergy members wanted to change burial practices. Medical professionals also opened crematoriums because they were worried about public health conditions.
By the year 1900, 20 crematoriums were open in the United States. In 1913, Dr. Huge Erichsen started the Cremation Association of America. The name got changed to the Cremation Association of North America in 1975.
More than half of people who pass away in the United States are expected to get cremated. It’s predicted that in 20 years, around 80% of people will choose to get cremated instead of traditionally buried.
What Are the Benefits of Cremation?
There are many benefits of cremation over traditional burial. It’s essential to weigh your options before deciding for yourself or a loved one.
Ground burials can be more expensive than cremation, depending upon where you live. The cost of a funeral varies depending on the services a funeral director or crematory provides for you.
The cost of cremation is less expensive because you don’t have to purchase additional items, such as a casket. You also won’t have to buy a headstone or burial plot.
However, you might choose to have your loved one housed in a columbarium. A columbarium is used for those who’ve gotten cremated. Some niches hold cremated remains or urns.
The deceased is typically interred above ground in a mausoleum or underground in a burial plot with traditional burials. Cremation gives you numerous options.
You can decide to have your loved one house in a columbarium as we discussed above. You can also scatter or legally bury a person’s ashes in the following locations:
- Wilderness areas
- The ocean
- Private land
It’s essential to know the rules and regulations of your state before you scatter or bury ashes in a public location.
Some people choose other options for their loved one’s ashes. They might decide to keep their ashes in an urn in their home.
Other less traditional options include:
- Placing a small amount of the ashes into jewelry
- Mixing the ashes into tattoo ink
- Putting the ashes into fireworks before lighting them
A cremation ceremony is often associated with celebrations of life or memorials. Traditional funerals include many parts, such as organizing a wake, a church mass, and a cemetery burial.
You can choose to have your cremation ceremony as simple or complex as you’d like. These ceremonies are based more on what the individual wants instead of abiding by traditional rituals.
You also won’t get overwhelmed with complicated funeral planning. Planning a funeral is challenging when you’re grieving the death of a loved one. Cremations can help you, and your loved ones save time during a difficult time.
Traditional burials are considered not to be environmentally friendly. The toxic chemicals used during embalming leach into the soil and air as a body decomposes. These chemicals can expose funeral home workers to hazardous materials.
Additionally, many cemeteries maintain well-watered green plots. This has a dramatic effect on water and land usage.
Lots of materials also go into a traditional burial. Tons of concrete, steel, bronze, copper, and hardwood get used yearly to create caskets.
Cremation has less of an impact on the environment than traditional burials. Keeping your loved one’s ashes in a columbarium will take up less space than a burial plot. You also don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals leaching into the earth.
Share the Ashes
Cremation is an excellent option for those who live in different parts of the world.
You can divide the ashes of a loved one amongst your close friends and family. This enables every family member to pay their respects to the deceased loved one.
Compatible With Different Faiths
Many faiths and religions have evolved throughout recent years to accept a cremation as an accepted burial ritual. For example, the Vatican changed its guidelines on cremation in 2016. The Vatican stated that the soul is immortal, so it isn’t reliant on the physical body.
Since the physical body is the only thing impacted by cremation, the Vatican isn’t opposed to it. However, they state that your ashes should get kept in a sacred place if you choose to get cremated. You shouldn’t scatter the ashes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cremation
While a popular burial ritual, there’s still a lot the average person doesn’t know about it. Let’s discuss some of the most commonly asked questions about cremation.
How Long After Death Until a Person Gets Cremated?
Cremation isn’t irreversible like traditional burial is. Legal agencies, such as a medical examiner, require specific authorization to cremate a person.
This process can take 48 to 72 hours. The deceased will get kept in a refrigerated and secure environment during this time.
What Cremation Urn Can I Use?
You don’t have to purchase a cremation urn from your cremation provider. Many individuals choose to since cremation providers carry a wide range of urns for them to choose from.
You can also choose to purchase a cremation urn online or have one made from a specialty shop. Keep in mind that the urn needs to have a volume of 200 cubic inches.
How Long Does the Cremation Process Take?
There are a few factors that affect the length of cremation. These factors include:
- The person’s weight and height
- The starting temperature of the chamber
- The efficiency and size of the chamber
The cremation process will take less time if the chamber is already hot. The process generally takes around one to three hours. The chamber will have to cool before the operator can obtain the remains.
Can I Include Personal Items in the Cremation?
We strive to accommodate the wishes of the deceased’s loved ones. Some items that are commonly requested to get included in the cremation are:
- Treasured keepsakes
- Personal messages
Specific regulations apply to this. You should speak with your funeral director about this.
Learn More About the History of Cremation
The history of cremation spans thousands of years and has touched nearly every part of the world. Many people opt to get cremated instead of traditionally buried in modern society. Cremation provides you and your loved ones with numerous benefits during a challenging time.
Lone Star Cremation has been helping families in the Fort Worth area since 2004. Contact us today to learn more about our cremation services.
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