The first record of the disposal of bodies or rituals of saying goodbye to a loved one dates back to the days of the Neanderthals, who loved in parts of Europe and western Asia. The Neanderthal was equipped with the brain capacity to create tools that included the first flint knives. Before this crop of mankind, our ancestors left corpses by the wayside, while the Neanderthals buried their dead with ritual funerals.
Upon discovering a Neanderthal grave in Shanidar, Iraq, details about the way the ancient men lived were revealed. The pollen of eight different flowers had survived over the years. Other clues caused researchers to assume that the Neanderthals placed other objects in the graves of their dead, including hunting weapons, fire charcoals, and food. This would mark the first time man had showed an interest and understanding that an afterlife existed. Thanks to funerary artifacts, we are able to piece together some of the changes and history of man.
Death played an important role in the rituals and traditions of many ancient cultures. For examples, the ancient Egyptians and Peruvians centered a great deal of their lifestyle to preparing for the afterlife. The Great Pyramids of Egypt is one of the most glaring examples of this. The people possessed skills in art, science and technology, and they certainly put them to good use when building their tombs and other monuments that honored the dead.
From humans to animals, inhumation is the oldest means of burial , a practice that stretched across the globe. The Eskimos would simply cover a corpse with a pile of stones in a conical manner. This was called a cairn. More extensive creations involved the huge arrows constructed by the ancient Norse people. Ancient Hebrews used natural caves to place their dead, where they created oblong recesses into the walls. This would serve as the foundation for the first mausoleums. The chambers were looked upon as sacred and over time, became feared as plots filled with disease. The chambers became coated with lime so people would recognize their existence and avoid coming in contact with the caves of the dead.
During ancient burial customs, the positioning of a corpse also held special meaning. Sometimes, a body was symbolically forced into the fetal position in reference to a rebirth in the afterlife. Other cultures extended the body and crossed the arms over the chest (in the position of sleep) to imply the dead would later awaken. However, the Sumerians and Babylonians would only place their rulers in the sleeping position. Servants were killed and buried with their leaders in a crouching position to mean they would spring up and serve on command. Some of the body positioning of the dead have survived into present-day rituals, such as the Buddhists who lay the heads of the deceased to the north.
In Africa, who you were and what you did in life played a role in your position in a grave. Husbands were situated on his right side facing to the east so that when the sun arose, he would be awakened , ready to farm and hunt. His wife was buried facing west so that the setting sun would remind her of the evening meal she was to prepare.