Offered as an alternative to traditional burials, cremation is a fairly common practice these days. While modern cremations are performed through the use of a closed furnace at a crematorium, there have been many variations throughout history. Cremation is actually an ancient process that started at least 17,000 years ago.
Read on if you’re interested in learning more about the history of cremation.
Earliest records of cremation
When did people start getting cremated? According to most scholars, people likely started to cremate the bodies of the deceased somewhere in the early Stone Age. The process likely started in Europe before eventually spreading throughout Northern Europe and Russia. Cultures that began practicing cremation in ancient times included the Egyptians and Babylonians.
Cremation in the Bronze Age and the Mycenaean Age
During the Bronze Age, which lasted from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, cremation became quite popular throughout Europe. Cemeteries for cremation even began to develop during this time with several appearing in Hungary, Northern Italy, Ireland and Northern Europe.
Most Greeks practiced burial until the Mycenaean Age, which lasted from 1200 BC to 1100 BC. Cremation provided a hygienic way for the Greeks to deal with deceased soldiers.
Cremation among the Romans
Cremation became a common practice among the Romans around 600 BC. Like the Greeks, Romans used cremation as a way of honoring deceased soldiers. They did this by placing the body of the deceased on a funeral pyre covered in leaves. After burning, the Romans would wash the bones of the deceased with wine and then place them inside of urns.
Cremation in the 1800s
After Constantine’s Christianization of the Roman Empire, which occurred around 400 AD, cremation became very uncommon—that was, until the 1870s when new furnace technology made cremation a much more viable option. In 1876, America would open its first crematory in Washington, Pennsylvania. In 1878, the first European crematories appeared in Woking, England and Gotha, Germany.
The next few crematories would later pop up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; Los Angeles, California; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Cincinnati, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan. By the late 1990s, there were around 1,500 crematories in the United States alone.
Modern cremation doesn’t utilize open fire like the funeral pyres of yesteryear. Deceased bodies are instead taken to a crematorium and then placed within a chamber. The body is transformed into powdery, white ashes after spending an hour or two in the crematorium chamber. After that, loved ones can do whatever they want with the ashes. Many people choose to keep their loved one’s ashes within a beautiful urn, while others would rather spread the ashes in a meaningful location.
As you can see, the practice of cremation has been around for a long time. This is because cremation is a great way to preserve the memory of a deceased loved one. If you’ve decided to have your loved one cremated, be sure to contact Steedley Monument Works. We offer excellent service and a huge variety of high-quality cremation products, all available at fair prices.