A Brief History of Cremation

It’s tempting to think of cremation as a modern concept because it hasn’t been popular in the United States until the last couple of decades. However, cremation, in form or another goes back thousands of years as an viable means of disposing of the dead.

Archaeological evidence reveals that cremations were used in 3000 B.C., and some evidence in Chinese archeological sites even points as far back as 8000 B.C. During the Stone Age, the use of cremation spread through parts of Europe and the Near East.

Cremation as a ritual

In some cultures, like the ancient Greek culture, the burning of a body on wooden pyre was a form of cremation given as a military rite for those who died in battle. In the Roman Empire, emperors were cremated with similar honors, including an eagle being released over the flames to symbolize the emperor’s spirit passing on.

The opposition against cremation
These kinds of rituals, plus the association of cremation as mandatory by some forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, was a major factor in the Catholic Church’s decision to ban cremation because the institution believed cremation to be a paganistic ritual. During the French revolution, non-religious organizations promoted cremation as a means of disposing of the dead without involving the church. Plus, Catholic leaders couldn’t agree on whether or not a cremated body could be raised from the dead.

Since Catholicism banned cremation and the rising faith of Islam completely forbade it, the use of cremation quickly fell out of favor.

The resurgence of cremation
Modern cremation took interest again in the 1800s with the advent of the crematorium as a solution to public health and hygiene concerns. This helped increase the use of cremation, and it cremation began to boom after 1963, when the Catholic Church removed its ban on cremation.

With little opposition, cremation began to rise. Over the next couple of decades, up until the modern day, cremation grew each year and it is now used for 45.1 percent of deaths in America alone.

Are you interested in cremation instead of traditional burial methods? Heartland Cremation can help provide you with the guidance and planning you need for arranging the cremation of your loved one. Family-owned and operated, Heartland Cremation serves the Kansas City area, including the communities of Overland Park, Leawood, Prairie Village, Lenexa, and Olathe. Please contact us to discuss your cremation needs today.

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