Most archaeologists believe that cremation was possibly started around 3000 BCE & most likely first used in Europe or the Near East. It became the most common method of final disposition by 800 BCE in Greece & 600 BCE in Rome. Other cultures however, had other methods:
- The early Christian church also rejected cremation, partly because of its association with pagan societies of Greece and Rome . The Christians buried their dead in graves or in catacombs (underground vaults).
- In ancient Egypt bodies were embalmed then buried in a tomb
In ancient China they were buried.
When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and the followers of other religions were exiled or exterminated, burial became the only method of final disposition throughout Europe .
An Italian, Professor Brunetti, developed the first modern cremation chamber in the 1870’s. This triggered a movement towards cremation in Europe and North America , which has continued to the present day. In 1886, the Roman Catholic Church officially banned cremations. Church members as recently as World War II were excommunicated for arranging them. The Eastern Orthodox ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople stated in 1961 that “There is no formal Orthodox rule against cremation, but there is a heavy weight of custom and sentiment in favour of Christian burial”
There are currently about 1,100 crematories and 470,915 cremations per year in North America .
What is Cremation?
The word cremation comes from the Latin word cremo which means “to burn” – particularly the burning of the dead.
Cremation generally involves the application of high temperature, typically between 1400 and 2100 Degrees Fahrenheit (760 to 1150 Deg. C), to a rigid cardboard or wooden box or casket which contains the deceased. The body and container are almost completely consumed – the cremated remains consist of bone fragments and particles, which usually weigh from 4 to 8 pounds (1.8 to 3.6 kg) depending on the size and weight of the body. The bone fragments are then ground into granular form in order to place them in a temporary container or urn. The entire process takes from 3 to 5 hours. Although the attendants endeavour to remove all of the bone fragments from the cremation chamber, a small residual amount will remain in the chamber and be mingled with the next cremation.
Benefits of Cremation?
- It is more economical because a basic cremation container can be used in place of a casket.
- it allows scattering of the remains in a place of significance to the deceased or their family.
- the cost of burying cremated remains in an urn is much more economical than the cost of burying a body in a casket. The costs involved are the purchase and perpetual care of a grave plot, the opening and closing fees of the plot, a grave-liner and a grave-marker.
- many people would rather have their body disposed of quickly by heat rather than allow it to decompose in a grave.