The history of funeral traditions and rituals indicates that they have been an important part of how communities and individuals externalized grief for thousands of years. They are understood as an important means of taking care of the deceased, as well as those that are coping with the loss of someone they care for.
As a result, such rites and rituals are both extremely personal and extremely diverse- not only across cultures, but across time. Different communities in different contexts have found unique ways of organizing funeral rites that cater to their specific social values and beliefs, as well as the geographical spaces in which theses traditions have taken place.
Robin Hyde-Chambers of R-Hyde Chambers Funerals in the United Kingdom put together this interesting interactive timeline tracing the history of funeral rites as far back as 60, 000 B.C.E. The timeline shows us how funeral practices have developed since that time to become representative of unique cultural traditions. Including examples ranging from the earliest known attempts at mummification in Egypt in 3, 600 B.C.E. to the first celebration of Day of the Death by the Aztecs in 1, 500 B.C.E., we can see how the ways in which funeral traditions are practiced is incredibly diverse and unique amongst cultures.
It also becomes clear how such traditions have evolved over time to cater to new scientific understandings of death. For instance, you can see how the more recent examples of funeral traditions include practices such as biodegradable “Ecopods,” which reflect our global community’s growing urge to be aware of the welfare of our environment. Scroll through the timeline below, and get an idea of how funeral traditions have developed throughout history!
The History of Funeral Traditions
Hover over the left or right side of the image and click on the arrows to navigate the timeline of the History of Funeral Traditions!