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Sunday, 25 August 2013


In ancient Egypt, when merchants left the country on business trips they carried small stone models of themselves. If they died while abroad, these figures were sent back to Egypt for proxy burial.

Egyptian mummies were wrapped in about 2000 yards of bandages.

Nesperennub, a temple priest, an important advisor to the Pharaoh Sheshonq and a member of a leading family in the city of Thebes was buried in 800 BC with a winged scarab dung beetle on his chest to guard his journey into the afterlife. He also had large rings on each hand and amulets, including an eye of Horus were wrapped within his bandages. Embalmers would have spent 70 days preparing his body, removing his internal organs and brain and replacing his eyes with glass ones to allow him to see after death.

The ancient Chinese had a custom of burying the dead with pottery images of people, animals, and  possessions dear to them in life.

A Spartan only got his name on his tombstone if he died in battle.

After his crucifixion, Jesus Christ’s body was wrapped up in strips of linen together with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes and with spices. Looking in from the outside it must have looked like a cocoon and would have retained the shape of a body, even though Jesus’ body was no longer there. This is the reason for Peter and John seeing the tomb and only upon entering did they believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

Wall mosaic of entombment of Jesus near Stone of anointing at Church of the Holy Sepulchre. By AntanO 

Ship burials were common among Germanic peoples, particularly by Viking Age Norsemen. If the ship used to carry the dead or their goods was very small, it was called a boat grave.

Until the 16th century rich bodies were buried inside churches in England and paupers outside.

In the 1500s lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom; "holding a wake."

In England, the Acts of Burial in Woollen, passed from 1666 onwards, were designed to boost the home wool industry by enforcing the use of woollen shrouds and grave-clothes. Contravention of the Acts invoked a £5 fine. Despite the attempted enforcement of woollen garments, there was a common belief that linen, the shroud of Christ, was the only proper burial material.

In the 18th century, the French navy buried their dead in the ship’s hold.

Samuel Baldwin of Lymington was buried at sea. The ceremony was performed at the deceased’s own request to disappoint his wife, who in frequent squabbles had declared her intention to dance on the grave.

General Stonewall Jackson had two separate burial sites - one for his amputated left arm (Fredericksburg, Virginia) and one for the rest of his body (Lexington, Virginia). Jackson’s left arm was shattered during the Battle of Chancellorsville by friendly fire and was amputated the next day. He died a week later on May 10, 1863.

General Jackson seven days before he was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville

Arlington National Cemetery was established on June 15, 1864 when 200 acres around Arlington Mansion (formerly owned by Confederate General Robert E. Lee) were officially set aside as a military cemetery by US Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

Gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery are marked by U.S. flags each Memorial Day.

General Robert E. Lee's coffin was a bit short for him. As a result he was buried barefoot.

In 1884 Dr. William Price attempted to cremate the body of his infant son, Jesus Christ Price, setting a legal precedent for cremation in the United Kingdom.

The only president buried in Washington, DC proper, Woodrow Wilson, was laid to rest in the National Cathedral.

Seventy-three-year-old psychology professor James Bedford became on January 12, 1967 the first person to be cryonically frozen with intent of future resuscitation.  He remains preserved at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. In the cryonics community, the anniversary of his cryopreservation is celebrated as "Bedford Day".

Planetary scientist Eugene Shoemaker is the only human in history to have their ashes buried on the Moon.

In Britain cremation overtook burial in 1868 as the most popular means of disposal.

The difference between a casket and a coffin lies in the design. Coffins are tapered at the head and foot and are wide at the shoulders. Caskets are rectangular in shape.

Taphephobia is the fear of being buried alive.

NASA does not have an official protocol for what to do with an astronaut's body if one were to die in space.

Deceased Tibetan Buddhists are given a “sky burial” in which the body is folded in half, walked to the burial site on someone’s back, and then dismembered and fed to vultures. There is no wood for a cremation, and the ground is too hard to dig due to the high altitude they live in.

Only burial grounds adjacent to churches are ‘graveyards’.  Burial grounds not adjacent to churches are merely ‘cemeteries’ and are not deemed ‘holy ground’.

Sources Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc, History World.

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