These Forgotten Ancient Burial Rituals are Worth to Know

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Burial rituals are the most fundamental rituals like birth and marriage rituals in any civilization/country. Every civilization has its own burial rituals to respect nature’s biggest truth. Buried in coffins, burning the dead bodies, offering the dead body to birds are few rituals which are followed currently. But there were few ancient burial rituals which followed by our ancestors but they now are no more followed.

Mudhumakkal Thazhi

In Tamil, “Madhamadha” means immobile and “Thazhi” means a chamber or vessel. As a practice followed in ancient Tamil Nadu where when people got older, they became unwell and stopped moving around. At this stage, these people were transferred outside the village, to a specific location. Every evening, a woman from the family would visit this chamber to feed the elderly person and cleaning and lighting an oil lamp. This procedure would go on for several years until the old man/woman dies.

Once they have died then their body was kept in these big pots and buried under the earth.

Human Remains in one of pot found in the excavation

The history of Mudhumakkal Thazhi is over 3,000 years old and these pots should be at least 2,000 years old as suggested by their the black and brown color,” according to S Nantha Kumar, curator of state archaeology department’s Chera museum at Karur and it was ancient Tamil practice by family members to create a huge earthen pot called Mudhumakkal Thazhi to bury old people. “Pieces of bones that were found along with the urns,” he added. 

Mudhumakkal Thazhi Vessel

Megalithic Jar Sites in Xiengkhouang

The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape in Laos. It consists of thousands of stone jars scattered around the valleys of the Xiangkhoang Plateau. The Plain of Jars is dated to the Iron Age (500 BC to AD 500) and is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Southeast Asia.

Hundreds of Vessel are placed on the ground

The jars vary in height and diameter between 1m and 3m and cylindrical with the bottom always wider than the top. These jars were used for burial practice in prehistoric times. Japanese archaeologists have supported this idea with the discovery of human remains, burial goods and ceramics around the jars. Jars were closed with the lid so that the body can be saved from the animals.

Jar with Lid

Hanging Coffins

Hanging Coffins

Hanging coffins are an ancient funeral custom of some ethnic groups, especially the Bo people of southern China. Coffins of various shapes were mostly carved from one whole piece of wood. Hanging coffins either lie on beams projecting outward from vertical faces such as mountains, are placed in caves in the face of cliffs, or sit on natural rock projections on mountain faces.

Hanging Coffins in Mountain Caves

It was said that the hanging coffins could prevent bodies from being taken by beasts and also bless the soul eternally. Spiritually, the Bo people viewed the mountain cliffs as a stairway to heaven and believed that by placing the coffins up high the deceased would be closer to heaven.

A practical reason for placing the coffins on cliffs includes isolation so that they are hard for animals to reach and less vulnerable to destruction.

Sumerian Burial Practice

The Sumerians buried their dead in baskets woven from plaited twigs and in brick coffins held together with bitumen. The graves were regularly arranged, like those in cemetery lots, with streets and lanes. Throughout Mesopotamia, those who were not royalty were buried below the family home or next to it so that the grave could be regularly maintained.

Some graves, dated at between 2600 and 2000 B.C., consisted of pits with two-meter-high walls lined with coarse reed matting. The dead were rapped in the reed matting or placed in coffins made of matting, wickerwork, wood or clay.

The Sumerians often buried their dead with their most prized objects. Even commoners were buried with objects they thought they would need in the Underworld.

Dead people were buried with food because it was believed that undernourished corpses would return as ghosts. Some Akkadian graves contain skeletons with their hand-holding cups near their faces.

Indus Valley Burial Practice

The burials in Indus Valley are interpreted primarily as reflections of social structure and hierarchy. The burials in the Harappan period were all in brick or stone-lined rectangular or oval pits. The body was usually interred clothed shrouded or in a wooden coffin in the north-south direction in a straight direction. It was important that the body did not come into contact with the ground. 

The bodies of the individuals were usually buried with their jewelry which usually consisted of bangles made from shell, steatite beads, etc, and the men usually wore earrings.


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