It might not be something you want to think about very often, but it turns out that the style we treat our dead in the modern age is heavily influenced by the way our ancestors treated theirs.
When you look at demise and funeral practises through the ages, repeated patterns of behaviour emerge, building it easy to ensure where some of our modern notions about death such as maintaining an urn on your mantelpiece or having a gravestone have come from.
So here are nine surprising facts about death and funeral practises through the ages 😛 TAGEND
1. Some prehistoric societies defleshed the bones
This was done with sharp knives. And we know this because human skeletons interred during this period indicate the tracings of many cut marks to the skulls, legs and other bones.
During the medieval period, bodies that needed to be transported over long distances for burial is likewise defleshed by dismembering the body and simmering the pieces. The bones were then transported, while the soft tissues were interred close to the place of death.
2. Throwing lances at the dead
During the Middle Iron Age, speared-corpse burials were a pretty big deal in east Yorkshire. Spears were thrown or placed into the tombs of some young men and in got a couple of instances they appear to have been hurled with enough force-out to penetrate the body. It is unclear why this was done, but it may have been a military send-off similar to the 21 -gun salute at modern military funerals.
3. The Romans introduced gravestones
As an imported practise, the first gravestones in Britain were concentrated close to Roman military forts and more urbanised Romano-British settlements.
Back then, gravestones were more frequently dedicated to women and children than Roman soldiers. This was most likely because Roman soldiers were not legally allowed to marry, so monuments to their deceased family members legitimised their relationships in death in a manner that is they couldnt be in life.
After the end of Roman control in Britain in the fifth century, gravestones fell out of favour and did not become widely popular again until the modern era.
Do as the Romans did. Shutterstock
4. The Anglo Saxons opted urns
During the early Anglo-Saxon period, cremated remains were often kept within the community for some time before burial. We know this because groups of urns were sometimes buried together. Urns were also included in buryings of the deceased who were likely their relatives.
5. Lots of people shared a coffin
During the medieval period, many parish churches had community coffins, which could be borrowed or leased to transport the deceased person from the home to the churchyard. When they arrived at the graveside, the body would be removed from the coffin and buried in a simple shroud.
Sharings caring? Shutterstock
6. And rosemary wasnt just for potatoes
Sprigs of rosemary were often be borne by people in the funeral procession and cast onto the coffin before burial, much as rises are today. And as an evergreen plant, rosemary was associated with eternal life. As a fragrant herb, it was also often placed inside coffins to conceal any odours that might be arising as a result of the corpse. This was important because bodies often lay in state for days and sometimes weeks before burial, while preparations were made and mourners travelled to attend the funeral.
7. Touching a assassin could mend
Throughout early modern times, and up until at least the mid 19 th century, it was a common belief that the touch of a assassin executed by hanging could cure all kinds of illnesses, ranging from cancer and goitres to skin conditions. Afflicted persons would attend executions hoping to receive the death stroke of the executed prisoner.
8. There are still many mysteries
For almost a thousand years, during the British Iron Age, archaeologists dont genuinely know what kinds of funeral practices were being performed across much of Britain. And human remains only appear in a few places like the burials in east Yorkshire. So for much of Britain, funeral practises are nearly invisible. We suspect bodies were either exposed to the elements in business practices known as excarnation, or cremated and the ashes scattered.
Rosemary: a funeral herb. Shutterstock
9. But the living did respect the dead
Across time, people have engaged with past monuments to the dead, and it is common for people to respect older features of the landscape when choosing where to place new burials.
Bronze Age people made new funeral monuments and buried their dead in close proximity to Neolithic funeral monuments. This can be seen in the landscape around Stonehenge, which was created as an ancestral and funeral monument and is full of Bronze Age burial mounds known as round barrows.
And when the Anglo-Saxons arrived in Britain, they frequently interred their dead close to Bronze and Iron Age monuments. Sometimes they dug into these older monuments and reused them to inter their own dead.
Even today, green burial grounds tend to respect preexisting field bounds. And in at the least one modern cemetery, burials are placed in alignment with medieval ridge and furrow. These are the peaks and troughs in the landscape resulting from medieval ploughing.
Yvonne Inall, Research Assistant in Archaeology, University of Hull
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.