First-Ever Evidence of Cremation Discovered by British Archaeologists

Cremation was first introduced to the United States by Dr. Julius LeMoyne, who built the first-ever crematory in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1876. According to the Cremation Association of North America, the earliest cremations in history occurred during the Stone Age around 3000 BC in Europe and throughout the Near East. However, new evidence has recently come to light that reveals cremation could have been around centuries earlier around 5600 BC, during the Mesolithic period in Britain.

While examining an area in preparation for the construction of a water pipeline in Langford, Essex, a team from Oxford Archaeology discovered a burial pit that contained the remains of an individual who had been burned in an extremely hot fire. The pit, which had a diameter of 3.2 feet, contained burnt material that included four ounces of cremated bone, along with charcoal. Dr. Louise Loe, head of burials at Oxford Archaeology, analyzed the bone fragments and charcoal using radiocarbon dating to verify the age of the findings. Dr. Loe suspects that the remains are from at least one adult, and that the findings represent cremation conducted using a pyre. Prior to now, none of the 20 human bones discovered from the Mesolithic age had been cremated.

Nick Gilmour, the man who led the dig, says his team was surprised that the findings dated back to the Mesolithic period, since evidence of this caliber usually dates back to just the Bronze Age.

Oxford Archaeology says that the evidence of cremated remains sheds new light on early human society in Britain, especially during the Mesolithic period. The discovery of the bone and charcoal indicates that people understood fire and pyre technology enough to orchestrate cremation by achieving the high temperatures needed to completely burn and break down the human body.

The findings also hint toward the belief that the bodies of loved ones were respected enough to carry out an actual cremation ceremony. Previously, it was thought that families from the Mesolithic time period abandoned the bodies of their loved ones after they had passed away.

Today, approximately 48 percent of all bodies in the United States are cremated, and that percentage is expected to increase to 55 percent in 2020, and to 70 percent by the year 2030, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Many American families are turning to cremation due to its simple, cost-effective, and worry-free nature.

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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