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Where Did Funerals Come From? December 7, 2016

Old Graveyard

Funerals have always held a fascination for some people. Funeral traditions around the world range from the macabre to the celebratory. There is actually a National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, Texas that showcases the history of funerals in this country. But funerals were carried out long before the founding of the United States. Here is a look at the history of funerals.

Funerals, Culture and Religion

Funerals can be traced to the dawn of mankind, with every culture having some form of ritual for the dead. Many of these rituals are religious in nature and vary greatly from area to area and from one religion to another.

Neanderthal bodies have been discovered dating back to tens of thousands of years BC. When discovered, these corpses were found buried next to what were determined to be “gifts” for the deceased, perhaps indicating a belief in an afterlife.

Many of these ancient funerals included some sort of marker designating the grave. In some cases these markers were a simple pile of stones or a mound of dirt. Other early funeral services had bodies left in the open, letting nature reclaim the body.

Funeral History Benchmarks

The lengthy history of funerals is marked by a series of benchmark events. At about 4,000 BC, Egyptians began embalming their dead. Mummification, a form of embalming was widely used, with a person’s stature in life affecting how well their bodies were preserved. Royalty, like King Tutankhamun, were mummified and entombed in ornate cases called a sarcophagus.

During roughly this same period in Europe, catacombs were being used to “store” the dead, the largest of which were in the Paris, France area. Some six million people are said to be buried in these tunnels beneath the city, and today it’s a significant tourist attraction.

Within the first century following the death of Christ, the Romans are said to be the first to make use of columbariums. These are buildings or rooms used to store the urns containing human ashes. Columbariums are still an option for the storage of ashes in churches and cemeteries to this day.

In North America, some Native Indian tribes used earthen mounds to bury their dead, many of which can still be seen right here in Ohio.

A Brief History of Funerals in America

For a long while, funeral services were held in private homes, with families caring for their dead. This began to change during the Civil War when bodies began being embalmed to be shipped back home for burial. More park-like cemeteries began dotting the landscape and undertakers began taking the burden from families. These were later called morticians and in the 1900’s, the term “funeral director” began to become popular.

A Proud History of Our Own

Fares J. Radel Funeral Homes has a long, proud history of our own. It dates back to 1878 when John J. Radel assisted a neighbor with the burial of an infant. In 1912, we became one of the first automobile-serviced funeral homes in the country. That innovation continues to this day, with our modern banquet facilities, our own crematory and personal services like in-home funeral planning. For over 125 years our family has been serving the needs of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky residents and will continue to do so. For pre-planning or in your time of need, we invite you to call us, at Fares J. Radel Funeral Homes and Crematory.