The Story of Cremation

Have you ever wondered about the origins of modern-day cremation? Did you know it’s illegal to cremate a body outside a registered crematorium?

Cremation is one of the longest standing processes and memorial traditions in our history. As times change, so have our needs when it comes to dying and cremations make up roughly 70% of all funerals today. Now more than ever, we have the right to choose Cremation – especially if you feel like a traditional burial or even a natural burial is not something that appeals to you.

Here are some interesting facts about the history of Cremation:

history of cremation

1. Where it all began – the story of cremation.

We now know that the remains of Mungo Lady are 40,000 to 42,000 years old, making them the oldest human remains found anywhere in the world to date . Mungo Lady’s partly cremated body was discovered at Lake Mungo, NSW Australia. Geologists discovered that she had been ritually buried after the cremation.

2. Cremation was popular in ancient times.

The earliest Vikings who were devotedly Pagan also used to send their dead comrades to the afterlife in one of two ways, either cremation or burial. The cremation, they believed, assured a smooth smoke path to the afterlife and the remaining ashes would usually be put in an urn and buried. The Vikings would sometimes place their dead in boats as they saw this method as facilitating a safe passage via the same vessel that had aided them so successfully in life. Then the boat would be burned or buried.

history of cremation

3. Cremation was once completely outlawed.

Christianity was adopted widely in Iron Age Britain during the 7th century. Due to strict Christian beliefs, Cremation was outlawed; as they took the view that a person would be more fit to face Christ on the day of resurrection if they were whole. Furthermore, as a way of marking the end of Paganism, parts of Europe made cremation illegal and punishable by death. In Medieval Europe, cremation was only used in cases that had resulted in multiple deaths as a result of famine, disease or battle.

4. Origins of modern Cremation.

The very first “modern” human Cremation in the United Kingdom took place in 1885, in Woking, the site of the first and only crematorium then built in Britain. Cremations were finally made legal and more available to the populace under the first Cremation Act 1902, which allowed the burial authorities to build crematoria across the United Kingdom to keep up with growing demand caused by dwindling availability of burial plot sites, rising costs and public pressure.

history of cremation

***INTERESTING “FACT” ABOUT CREMATED REMAINS*** As medicine progressed, pathologists supposedly discovered that Cremated remains weigh about the same as a person did at birth.

However, the 1902 law states that cremations must only take place in crematoria and therefore outdoor funeral pyres were no longer an option. This restriction can impact negatively on the religions and cultures of other residents of the UK but the Department for Constitutional Affairs maintains it reviews the need for this law regularly.

5. Today’s options for disposal of ashes.

In today’s changing climate, the funeral industry is now able to offer more than just the burial of ashes. You can have your loved one turned into jewellery; precious stones, a tattoo, or an ornament such as a photo frame. You can have the ashes added to a speciality firework and literally fired off into the sky. My personal favourite would be to plant a memorial tree in a special urn that degrades and feeds the tree.

history of cremation - eternity tree ashes

Blog co-written with Holly Cadman, @deatheducationdaily on Instagram.

More Posts