How Did the Idea of Cremation Start?

August 31, 2018 6:20 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Today, you would be hard pressed to find someone who has not attended a funeral service where the deceased was cremated. In 2009, nearly 37 percent of deaths in the U.S. were handled through cremation, a percentage that is expected to grow to over half of all deaths by 2018.

Cremation is a popular practice with Americans and with most countries and cultures across the globe for many reasons. It is not only economical, because cremation is often less expensive than a casket burial, but many people are finding the thought of being “buried in a box” less appealing and question the traditional reasoning that supports the practice of a casket burial.

But where did cremation originate and how did the idea start? As a local provider of cremation services in Westchester, IL, we’ve been asked this question before and would like to share our knowledge.

The origination of cremation

Although there is some disagreement among scholars, it is generally believe that the practice of cremation began around 3000 B.C., in the early Stone Age, and originated in Europe and the Near East. Decorative pottery urns discovered in western Russia suggest that, during the Stone Age, the practice of cremation made its way across northern Europe. By the beginning of the Bronze Age, findings suggest that cremation had moved into the British Isles, and evidence of the practice could now be found in Spain and Portugal as well.

Cremation and Christianity

By 27 B.C., during the time of the Roman Empire, cremation was so widely practiced among Romans that there is actually record of a decree issued in the mid-5th Century prohibiting the cremation of bodies in the city.

However, cremation was not widely practiced by the growing numbers of Christians, and was also frowned upon by Jewish culture. Both of these practices of faith regarded cremation as a pagan practice and preferred entombment.

With the rise of Christianity, by 400 A.D., earth burial had completely replaced cremation, except in very rare circumstances where either war or disease made the practice necessary.

Modern cremation

The practice of cremation did not see a resurgence until the late 1800s. Professor Brunetti of Italy presented a perfected model for a crematory at the 1873 Vienna Exposition. Within the same decade, Sir Henry Thompson started the Cremation Society of England to address hazardous health conditions in Europe at the time. Also within the same decade, all the way across the world, Dr. Julius LeMoyne built the first crematory in Washington, Pennsylvania. By 1913, there were 52 crematories in North America, and over 10,000 cremations took place in that year alone.

At Marik-Baken Funeral Services Ltd., we offer both traditional casket funerals and cremation services in Westchester, IL. We understand that planning a funeral is a difficult and deeply personal process, so we want to make sure that you have options to create a service that best meets your needs and your loved one’s wishes. If you would like to know more about the services we offer, please call us today.

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