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A short history of the Funeral Urn

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An urn is a vase, ordinarily covered, that usually has a narrowed neck above a footed pedestal.

In Classical terms, an urn is a large decorative covered container of wood, metal, pottery, etc. In furniture, it was a large wooden vase-like container which was usually set on a pedestal on either side of a side table. Urns were also used as decorative turnings at the cross points of stretchers in 16th and 17th century furniture designs. The urn and the vase were often set on the central pedestal in a "broken" or "swan's" neck pediment.

Cremation urns

Funerary urns (also called cinerary urns and burial urns) were used by many civilizations. After a person died, survivors cremated the body and collected the ashes in an urn. Pottery urns, dating from about 7000 BC, have been found in an early Jiahu site in China, where a total of 32 burial urns are found, and another early finds are in Laoguantai, Shaanxi. There are about 700 burial urns unearthed over the Yangshao (5000–3000 BC) areas and consisting more than 50 varieties of form and shape. The burial urns were used mainly for children, but also sporadically for adults. In ancient Greece, the lekythos, a type of pottery in ancient Greece, was used for holding oil in funerary rituals. In the Bavarian tradition, a king's heart would be placed in the urn upon his death (as happened with King Otto of Bavaria in 1916). Cremation urns were also commonly used in Anglo Saxon England.

Romans placed the urns in a niche in a collective tomb called a columbarium (literally, dovecote). The interior of a dovecote usually has niches to house doves.

The discovery of a Bronze Age urn burial in Norfolk, England prompted Sir Thomas Browne to carefully describe the antiquities found. He expanded his study to survey burial and funerary customs, ancient and current, and published it as Hydriotaphia or Urn Burial (1658).

In the modern funeral industry, cremation urns of varying quality, elaborateness, and cost are offered, and urns are another source of potential profit for an industry concerned that a trend toward cremation might threaten profits from traditional burial ceremonies. Biodegradable urns, made from eco-friendly materials such as coconut shell, compacted peat, cellulose and other natural products that are capable of decomposing back into natural elements, and sometimes including a seed intended to grow into a tree at the site of the burial, were also introduced for both human and animal burial.

Besides the traditional funeral or cremation ashes urns, it is also possible to keep a part of the ashes of the loved one or beloved pet in keepsake urns or ash jewelry. It is even possible to place the ashes of two people in so-called companion urns. Cremation or funeral urns are made from a variety of materials such as wood, nature stone, ceramic, glass, steel, etc.

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Cremation today is quickly gaining popularity, as it is a worthwhile alternative than the customary ground internment. There are such a variety of urn sorts, that they are regularly grouped by the style and usefulness, instead of materials. Many religions that were formerly against cremation have now accepted it as a custom. Cremation can also offer the same alternatives for families that traditional entombments provide. Cremation provides us an option for the goodbye of our dearly departed in a dignified and time honored way.

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