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The History of Cremation

Cremation has been a part of human culture for at least twenty thousand years and has been found in nearly all parts of the world. Depending on the era and the reigning powers of the time, cremation has shifted from forbidden practice to an honored rite for societal elites.

Archaeological evidence reveals that in prehistory cremation was widely practiced by early humans along with other burial methods such as inhumation and embalming. Ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians forbid the practice, but others such as Persian and ancient Roman culture encouraged it; the Romans revering cremation as a burial right for military honors.

As the major religions became more dominant, cremation was either banned outright or considered mandatory. Religions that have their source in India, Hinduism and Buddhism, cremation is mandatory and many of their cremations customs feature fantastically decorated coffins that are burned before a large audience. In the West, as Christianity gained dominance, early Christians forbid the practice, partially in an effort to contrast with the previously influential Roman religion.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, cremation was a practice that could be punishable by death depending on the circumstances. This severe restriction was not complete as human remains from large battles or fears of disease such as the bubonic plague led communities to perform cremations out of practicality.

In more recent times, crematoriums began to appear in Europe and the United States in the nineteenth century, although the practice wasnít completely legal for many of these countries until the twentieth as more and more people began to demand choice in their burial options. The oldest crematorium, opened in 1925, operates out of Australia.

With these changes and increased practice, protestant churches began to officiate or at least allow cremations in these countries. The Catholic Church, however, still forbade cremation until 1963, and did not allow priests to officiate these ceremonies until three years later.

In modern times, cremation has taken on a new revival as awareness of environmental impact has affected individualís choice in burial methods. Normal burial can contaminant the surrounding environment and also simply uses space that is becoming scarce in certain areas. Conversely, the emission from the cremation process can also have a negative impact on the environment.

Though, cremation has shifted through many vogues throughout history, today it has become an accepted practice in most countries and the choice now rests with the individual.

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