First, in order to address the history of cremation it is important that the term is defined, so that there is no confusion as to what process is being discussed. This article refers to cremation as the process of reducing a dead body to its basic compounds in the form of gases and bone fragments which is accomplished through high temperatures and vaporization. This form of memorializing a loved one is becoming an increasingly more popular form of a funeral rite or post funeral rite because cremated remains are so much more versatile. For example, cremated remains (which are not a health risk) can be buried in a cemetery, immured at a memorial site, retained by relatives, and or dispersed by in a variety of ways such as scattering over a lake or favorite location of the deceased. Many times, family members will wish to retain the remains and keep them stored in a cremation urn. This type of urn is usually a vase with a foot or pedestal that is hollow on the inside with ample room for the remains and a lid to keep the remains contained. Headstones USA carries a variety of funeral urns that can be customized by engraving small epitaphs and even designs. To view our in stock selection click on the following link: http://www.headstonesusa.com/urns.html .
Now, to focus on the actual history of cremation, most researchers and historians agree that the process of cremation most likely began in any real sense during the early years of the Stone Age or approximately 3000 B.C. in the Near East and European areas. As time progressed to the late Stone Age cremation began to gain in popularity and spread across Northern Europe. This is evident through archeological digs in which decorative pottery urns are found in use in western Russian and among the Slavic people. It would seem that for a time to process would be contained to this part of the world but with the Bronze Age which occurred from around 2500 to 1000 B.C. the process of cremation gained popularity in areas such as the British Isles and into what is modern day Spain and Portugal as evident by pottery finds that appear to be used in the cremation process. In areas such as Hungary, Northern Italy, Northern Europe, and even Ireland there is archeological evidence that cemeteries were even developed to place the cremated remains during this time. Although the methods that were used are unclear and the reason why the civilizations began to turn to the cremation practice remained (for the most part) unknown it is clear that over the centuries it gained in popularity and continued to spread.
For example, by the Mycenaean Age which historians place at 1000 B.C. cremation became such an integral part of the elaborate Grecian burial customs that people were actually encouraged to be cremated for public health reasons and the practical burial it allowed for of massacred warriors in the battle ravaged country. The early Romans saw the practice in other parts of the world and acknowledged the benefits to such methods and actually began to embrace the cremation process for themselves around 600 B.C. and by the mid 5th century it had become such a popular and prevalent practice that an official decree was made against cremating bodies within the city but the practice continued and by the time of the Roman Empire which is dated as 27 B.C. to 395 A.D. cremation was so popular that elaborate cremation urns were designed and columbarium-like buildings were erected to house both the remains and the elaborate and decorative urns.
Although the practice was prevalent during the time of the Great Roman Empire and was spreading quickly around the world there is one group that did not embrace the practice and in fact at times forbid it. This was the early Christians. During the early Christians cremation was very rare as it was considered a pagan practice and one that was shunned. Another group that avoided the practice during this time period was the Jewish. They preferred a traditional sepulcher to entomb a complete body. As a result of the original early Christian aversion to the process of cremation when in 400 A.D. Constantine rose in power and began his "Christianization" of the Empire earth burial began to once again become popular and in fact almost completely replaced cremation and the use of cremation urns (except in rare instances of plague or war) and for the next 1,500 years it would remain the "acceptable" mode of disposition for the deceased throughout Europe.
Cremation as a process and how we are familiar with it today in the modern world did not actually begin until 150 years or so ago. After years of experimentation and attempts to develop a dependable chamber in which to perform the cremation process a Professor Brunetti of Italy designed and perfected a model and displayed it at the 1873 Vienna Exposition. With his new and improved methods the entire process of cremation became so much more stable, effective and practical. With Brunetti's invention cremation once again became a popular custom and the movement spread quickly on both sides of the Atlantic. Doctors such as Queen Victoria's surgeon, Sir Henry Thompson in the British Isles saw the rationale and public health benefits to the new process and how it could be effective in preventing hazardous health conditions so he and his colleagues founded the Cremation Society of England in 1874 and began their public support of cremation vs. earth burial for a means of memorializing loved ones. By 1878, the first crematories of Europe were built in Woking, England and Gotha, Germany and the process continued to gain in popularity.
Meanwhile in the North America (specifically the United States) a primarily Christian nation the process of cremation was not popular at all. In fact, before 1800 there are only two recorded instances of it occurring. The real start of the practice in the United States seems to be in 1876, when a Dr. Julius LeMoyne built the first crematory in Washington, Pennsylvania. The second crematory, which opened in 1884 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was owned and operated by a cremation society (which was common). In addition to the erection of crematories there were other forces or factors behind the increasing popularity of cremation in North America. This would be the acceptance of the process by the Protestant clergy who had previously shunned the process as Pagan along with the Jewish and Roman Catholics. The clergy desired a reform in the burial process and along with the medical professions were becoming increasingly concerned with the health conditions around early cemeteries. They saw cremation as a way to protect the health of the living and so they began to promote the practice. Once the Protestant clergy and the medical profession embraced the practice crematories soon sprang up in Buffalo, New York, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit and Los Angeles to the point that that by 1900, there were already 20 crematories in operation. The process continued to grow to the point that some form of organization was needed so in 1913 Dr. Hugo Erichsen founded the Cremation Association of America in 1913, which included 52 crematories in North America and conducted over 10,000 cremations that year alone. What had once been considered taboo was increasingly becoming more acceptable and popular. By 1975, there were over 425 crematories in the United States and Canada and nearly 150,000 cremations a year. With population increases and the amount of area designated for earth burials in decline cremations are becoming not only an increasingly more popular way to memorialize a loved one, they are also becoming more affordable and sensible.
According to 2006 statistics over 32% of American deaths ended in cremation or over 700, 000 people chose to have their loved ones cremated. Here, at Headstones USA we have anticipated the variety of needs and multiple ways in which people may want to memorialize their loved ones, so we provide you with affordable markers and monument if you wish to bury your cremated loved one as well as a variety of cremation urns that can be personalized and customized to your specifications. For more information on how we can help you pay tribute to your loved one call us at 314-807-6910 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
***Portions of this article were originally published by the Cremation Association of North America to provide information and express the views of its members with the purpose of presenting the concept of cremation and to emphasize the importance of proper memorializing a loved one.****