external image angel_headstones.jpgThe first burial customs began in prehistoric times, where early humans would drop the dead into a hole and cover it with a stone. Some of the dead's possessions may have been placed with the body. Some burials during this time were accidental: if a hunter was wounded his companions would put him in a cave and seal it. If the hunter recovered, he was supposed to move the stones and climb out. But sometimes he would die in the cave, an interesting find for those who study prehistoric humans. Prehistoric humans also might purposely bury their dead in a shallow hole with a heavy stone to prevent the dead from coming back to life.

Saxons, which were skilled at digging, buried their dead. The more important the person, the more dirt was piled on top of their grave. These graves were called barrows.

Some of the earliest tombs were made in Egypt, China, and Rome. In Egypt, the dead were wrapped in linen and the phaorohs were buried in huge pyramids.

In the Middle ages and Victorian times, the dead were buried just around the churches. This caused many problems, however. First, these burial plots had limited space, causing the churches to sell the graves multiple times. Any number of corpses might be buried together in a hole only a few feet deep. After the bodies were stuffed into the shallow holes, plagues rose through the soil and infected most people going to mass and the children playing in the areas around the churches. Also, before burial, the valuables were often stolen off the body. Later laws were passed making it illegal to bury bodies less than six feet under the soil, but not after thousands of people were killed from the spreading plagues. Tombstones were first used in this time, most of which depicted death and skeletons. Some time after the law was passed, bodysnatchers began stealing bodies from their graves to be used in medical research. These people had found a loophole in the laws, and what they did was not officially illegal.

The church yards quickly filled and the dead were buried in areas just outside the cities. As cities expanded, the cemeteries would end up in the middle of cities as an area where nature could flourish.
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--GAzis-SAx, Joel. "A brief history of cemetaries." Connections.smsd.org. 1995, 1996. 30 Jan 2007 <http://connections.smsd.org/csi/A%20Brief%20History%20of%20Cemeteries.pdf>.
--Morgan, George. "Along those line: Cemetery Iconography." Ancestry.com. 23 July, 1999. Genealogy forum on America OnLine. 30 Jan 2007
--Team 16665. "A brief history of cemetaries." library.thinkquest.com. Library.thnkquest.com. 30 Jan 2007 <http://library.thinkquest.org/16665/cemeteries.htm>.
--Miller, Eric. "Cemetery Dynamics." www.daddezio.com. 15 March 2000. Daddezio.com. 30 Jan 2007 <http://www.daddezio.com/cemetery/trail/history.html>.
--chicora.org. "Cemeteries." www.chicora.org. www.chicora.org. 30 Jan 2007 <http://www.chicora.org/cemeteryFAQ.htm>.
--http://connections.smsd.org/csi/grave markers.pdf
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