History of Cremation, from Stone Age to 21st Century

achillesandajaxThere’s a good chance if you’ve had any personal connections to someone who has passed away that you’ve thought about your preferred method of ultimate disposition: burial or cremation.  Cremation is only chosen about half the time, the rate of those who decide to be cremated has almost doubled in the last decade. The rise in cremations begs many questions, one of them being, what’s the story behind cremation? When did it begin and which people were the first to begin the custom? Let’s dive in to the story and discover something new today. (Left) Achilles and Ajax Playing a Dice Game on an Ancient Grecian Urn , 540 BC Vulci Italy

The history of cremation is rich and long. The first evidence of cremation was through the discovery of decorative pottery urns found in western Russia from the Slavic people around 3000 B.C.   The practice soon found it’s way into southern Europe into the British Isles and what is now Spain and Portugal.

Ancient Cremation Was Encouraged For Reasons of Health

By 1000 B.C. cremation had become popular as a Grecian burial custom and was encouraged for health reasons for the expedient burial of their slain warriors. Romans continued this trend and at one time the practice was so popular an official decree had to be issued in the mid 4th century against the cremation of bodies within the city.

By 400 A.D., from the Christianization of the Roman Empire and the belief in the physical resurrection of the body, earth burial had completely replaced cremation except for extreme cases of plagues and wars.  For the next 1,500 years, earth burial remained the most popular mode of disposition in Europe.

Inception of Modern Cremation

firstuscrematoryThe modern cremation process is a relatively recent development that has been used since the 1900s.  When Professor Brunetti of Italy pioneered a cremation chamber and displayed it at the 1873 Vienna Exposition he ushered in the Modern Cremation movement. Shortly after this, the first crematory in America was built by Dr. Julius LeMoyne in Pennsylvania, who believed that bodies in the local cemeteries were contaminating the water supply.
(Left) Americas First Crematorium as seen from the nearby road, the left entrance leads to the reception room and the right leads to the furnace room

Timeless Reasons for Choosing Cremation

Today in Minnesota, cremation is a widely accepted form of final disposition with the cremation rate in the Twin Cites Metro Area at about 53%. Cremation is chosen for many reasons.  Many wish to simplify the funeral process or merely dislike the idea of a slow decomposition process. It can also allow for surviving kin to transport loved ones to their final resting place through burial or scattering of ashes. To learn more about cremation, visit the Willwerscheid Funeral Home & Cremation’s FAQ on the cremation process or contact us with any questions you may have. From the ancient Greek warriors to the modern 21st century cremation will continue to be an important part of grieving and mourning our loved ones.