Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Burial, also called interment and (when applied to human burial) inhumation, is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. Usually, this is accomplished by digging a pit or trench, placing the person or object in it, and refilling it with the soil that was dug out of it.
Objects are sometimes buried in order to hide them against removal or tampering. For cables and pipelines, burial provides protection and allows the convenience of walking or driving over them.
Reasons for human burial
Rotting corpses emit unpleasant odors (due to gases released by bacterial decomposition) and look gruesome. Burial prevents the living from having to see and smell the corpses. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, the WHO advises that corpses are not actually dangerous unless a person died from an infectious disease; corpses resulting from death by trauma (for instance, from natural disasters) are unpleasant but are not a public health issue.  
Many cultures insist on respect for the dead. This has several facets to it:
- Respect for the physical remains is considered necessary. If left lying on top of the ground, animals may eat the corpse, which is considered highly disrespectful to the deceased in many (but not all) cultures.
- Burial can be seen as an attempt to bring closure to the deceased's companions. By interring a body away from plain view, the pain of losing a loved one to death can likewise be lessened.
- Many cultures believe in an afterlife. Burial is often believed to be a necessary step for an individual to reach the afterlife.
In many human cultures throughout history, human corpses were usually buried in soil. Burial grounds have been uncovered all over the world. Mounds of earth, temples, and underground caverns were used to store the dead bodies of ancestors. In modern times, the custom of burying dead people below ground with a stone marker to mark the place is used in almost every culture.
Different cultures bury their dead in different ways. Some of these practices are heavily ritualized; others are simply practical.
Prevention of decay
Bodies are often buried wrapped in a shroud or placed in a coffin (also called a casket). A larger container may be used, such as a ship. Coffins are usually covered by a burial liner or a burial vault, which protects the coffin from collapsing under the weight of the earth.
These containers slow the decomposition process by (partially) physically blocking decomposing bacteria and other organisms from accessing the corpse. An additional benefit of using containers to hold the body is that if the soil covering the corpse is washed away by a flood or some other natural process, the corpse will still not be exposed to open air. This is a great help to maintaining hygiene.
In some cultures however the goal is not to preserve the body but to allow it to decompose - or return to the Earth - naturally. In Orthodox Judaism embalming is not permitted, and the coffins are constructed so that the body will be returned to the Earth as soon as possible. Such coffins are made of wood, and have no metal parts at all. Wooden pegs are used in the place of nails. Followers of the Islamic faith also prefer to bury their deceased so as not to delay decomposition. Normally, instead of using coffins the deceased are buried in a shroud, and the bodies of the deceased are not normally embalmed.
Inclusion of clothing and personal effects
The body may be dressed in fancy and/or ceremonial clothes. Personal objects, such as a favorite piece of jewelery or photograph, of the deceased may be included with the body. This practice, also known as the inclusion of grave goods, serves several purposes:
- In funeral services, the body is often put on display. Many cultures feel that the deceased should be presented looking his/her finest.
- The inclusion of ceremonial garb and sacred objects is sometimes viewed as necessary for getting to the afterlife.
- Though not generally a motivation for the inclusion of grave goods with a corpse, it is worth considering that future archaeologists may find the remains. Artifacts such as clothing and objects provide insight into how the individual lived. This provides a form of immortality for the deceased.
Burials may be placed in a number of different positions. Christian burials are made extended, i.e., lying flat with arms and legs straight, or with the arms folded upon the chest, and with the eyes and mouth closed. Extended burials may be supine (lying on the back) or prone (lying on the front). Other ritual practices place the body in a flexed position with the legs bent or crouched with the legs folded up to the chest. Many cultures treat placement of dead people in an appropriate position to be a sign of respect even when burial is impossible.
In nonstandard burial practices, such as mass burial , the body may be positioned arbitrarily. This is a sign of disrespect to the deceased, or at least nonchalance on the part of the inhumer.
Marking the location of the burial
Most modern cultures mark the location of the body with a headstone. This serves two purposes. First, the grave will not accidentally be exhumed. Second, headstones often contain information or tributes to deceased. This is a form of remembrance for loved ones; it can also be viewed as a form of immortality, especially in cases of famous people's graves. Such Monumental Inscriptions may subsequently be useful to genealogists and family historians.
Multiple bodies per grave
Some couples or groups of people want to be buried together, for example, a husband and wife. Since (in many cases) people die at different times, the exhumation of the first to die is often necessary. In other cases, the bodies may simply be buried side by side. Or if there was advanced planning the first person buried will be at a greater depth so that the second person can be buried on top at a shallower depth.
Mass burial is the practice of burying dozens, hundreds, or thousands of individuals in one massive pit, much like a landfill for human remains. Most cultures view mass burial as a way of objectifying corpses, and is often viewed as a form of gross disrespect to the individuals being buried. Civilizations attempting genocide often employ mass burial for the people they kill in the genocide, as it coincides neatly with their goals of dehumanizing and destroying a segment of the population.
However, in some cases, mass burial is the only practical means of dealing with a number of corpses sufficient to overwhelm local resources, as in a disaster.
In cases of mass burial, it is commonly of importance to survivors to later have the bodies exhumed, identified, and buried properly.
In cremation the body of the deceased is burned in a special oven. Most of the body is vaporized during the cremation process, leaving only a few pounds of bone fragements. Often these fragments are processed (ground) into a fine powder, which has led to cremated remains being called ashes. In recent times, cremation has become an increasingly popular option in the western world.
There is far greater flexibility in dealing with the remains in cremation as opposed to the traditional burial. Some of the options include scattering the ashes on the ground or in a body of water, or keeping the ashes at home. Ashes can also be buried either underground or in a columbarium niche. For followers of some religions, such as Roman Catholicism, cremation is permitted but the ashes must be buried or entombed following services.
Live burial sometimes occurs, in which individuals are buried while still alive. Having no way of escaping interment, they die in place, typically by asphyxiation, dehydration, starvation, or (in cold climates) exposure. People may come to be buried alive in a number of different ways:
- An individual may be intentionally buried alive as a method of execution or murder.
- In Ancient Egypt, servants were sometimes intentionally buried alive with their Pharaoh in order to serve him/her in the afterlife.
- A person or group of people in a cave, mine, or other underground area may be sealed underground due to an earthquake or other natural disaster.
- People have been unintentionally buried alive because they were pronounced dead by a coroner or other official, when they were in fact still alive. Scratch marks have been found on the inside of coffins, attesting to the fact that unintentional live burials do occasionally occur in cases where the body has not been embalmed.
Burial of animals
In addition to burying human remains, many human cultures also regularly bury animal remains. This is often necessary for hygienic reasons when the body cannot be disposed of in another way.
Pets and other animals of emotional significance are often ceremonially buried. Most families bury deceased pets on their own properties, mainly in a yard, with a shoe box or any other type of container served as a coffin. The Ancient Egyptians are known to have mummified and buried cats, which they considered deities.
By other animals
- 03-10-2013 05:06:04
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details