Later, however, as one’s ancestors were considered an important influence on one’s life, and their continued existence in the afterlife a certainty, prayers were offered both to those who had gone before and to the principle of divine harmony to aid the dead person in transition from this world to the next. It is not known what precise rites were performed at the funerals in ancient Scotland or Ireland because there is no written record of these proceedings. China had a lot of elaborate rituals not only for a funeral but for after, as it was believed in Confucianism that children owed a duty to their parents and that the dead could still influence the living. In Babylonia, the dead were buried in vaults, although, as Durant notes: A few were cremated and their remains were preserved in urns. Bodies were burned on a pyre at a sacred site (ideally the bank of the Ganges) with everything they might need to meet the gods. The concept of sky burials isn’t unique to Tibetan Buddhists. Even the direction the corpse was facing was determined by these factors. Even so, that was not the only means by which the dead were sent on to the next realm. The dead were buried with maize placed in their mouth as a symbol of the rebirth of their soul and also as nourishment for the soul's journey through the dark lands of Xibalba, the netherworld, also known as Metnal. It was far more fitting for one's soul to descend to the underworld with other human souls. Mark, Joshua J. Web. He may have wanted to discourage other women from following Hatshepsut's example in the future but did not wish to condemn her to non-existence by removing all trace of her name and deeds. Aztecs had beliefs similar to the Egyptians, sending items, livestock, and even slaves to the afterlife with their dead in tombs at the bottom of vertical shafts dug into the ground. Different Greek city-states observed their own particular burial rites but the one aspect they all had in common was the continued remembrance of the dead and, especially, their names. The Roman belief in the continual presence of one's ancestors in one's life encouraged the practice of taking one's life in order to prevent shame attaching itself to the family name. As in Rome, Egypt, and other cultures, proper burial of the dead was considered most important in allowing the dead to rest in peace and prevent a haunting by an angry ghost. Mark, Joshua J. The ancient Greeks (perhaps following an Egyptian tradition) made sure to provide their dead with carefully carved stones to remind the living of who the deceased were and what honors were still due them. The Mayan afterlife was a terrifying place of demons that could as easily harm one as help one in the soul's journey toward paradise and perhaps the cinnabar was thought to disguise the soul as one of these infernal spirits and so help the individual in their journey through the afterlife. Last modified September 02, 2009. At some times in Hindu history, these included the wives and servants of male deceased. The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark. Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited is a non-profit company registered in the United Kingdom. Osiris would then weigh the heart of the deceased against the white feather of Ma'at (truth and harmony) and, if one's heart was found lighter than the feather, one was given passage to the Field of Reeds, the Egyptian paradise which was an eternal mirror image of one's life on earth. 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. In Egypt, the dead were also buried underground and, famously, in the pyramids of such as those at Giza. Bodies were positioned in graves underground, as in Mesopotamia, to allow easy access to Xibalba and were aligned in accordance with the directions of the Mayan paradise (north or west). Greeks placed high value on immortality and believed that the preservation of their memory served this purpose. First, Toynbee examines Roman beliefs about death and the afterlife, revealing that few Romans believed in the Elysian Fields of poetic invention. Wooden coffins also appear in the 2000 BCE range along with personal possessions buried with the dead. According to Durant, “Suicide under certain conditions has always found more approval in the East than in the West” but, as in India and with the Maya, the Romans also honored those who killed themselves as they believed it was preferable to disgrace and dishonor. Books October 2003. The important thing was to make sure the spirits of the dead were happy. Coverage is subject to underwriting approval. Egyptian burial practices extended to one's pets and Herodotus has recorded how, in an Egyptian home that has lost a cat, the family would shave their eyebrows and observe a period of mourning on par with the death of a human being. Mark, J. J. The Celtic world spanned the British Isles as well as most of what is now France and even some parts of Germany. Great works of Greek art have resulted from the desire to preserve the memory of the dead. Iran’s Towers of Silence. A person wasn’t truly dead unless they were forgotten or somehow rendered irrelevant, so the mummified remains were treated as advisers and confidantes.

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