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Dead

cremation, burial, methods, countries, living and antiquity

DEAD, Disposal of the. In every age and in all countries, the living have shown their respect for the dead by various modes of burial ceremony, and the religion and laws of all countries reflect in large measure this feeling of reverence for the memory of those who have gone before. The methods of disposal of the dead are many, and historic romance has pre served for us many interesting and pretty cus toms. In the main, however, three methods are largely employed by modern peoples — burial, embalming or its modifications or cremation with its modifications. It is impossible to tell which method has the greatest antiquity, but probably simple burial antedated the other, since cremation and embalming usually imply a com plex religious development. The Hebrews, the Greeks and the Romans in the main buried their dead, their burying-grounds having been located outside of town walls; but cremation also was largely practised by the Greeks, and it has been thought that Hebrews at one time likewise burned their dead. As is well known, embalming was widely customary among most of the nations of antiquity, although the Egyptians may be said to have been the fore most of those employing it.

The argument in favor of cremation is based principally on sanitary grounds, and despite the general sentiment against it, cremation has made progress in the United States and other countries. There are crematories in many of the leading cities of America, and while much of the feeling against cremation has undoubt edly passed away, there is still great general dislike to burning of the dead. • Apart from methods of antiquity, the prob lem of disposing of the dead with least dagger to the living is, from the medical point of view, one of great interest. Its discussion is by no means of recent origin, however, for the early Italians, French and English contributed learned treatises on the subject. It would seem that

from the scientific point of view most of the modern writers and those of the Middle Ages strongly favor cremation as one of the cleanest and most efficient modes of disposal of the and it is a matter of history how the ancient Etruscans and others had their burial urns in which to keep the ashes of their forbears.

The method of burial beneath the ground is condemned by practically all sanitarians, but it will probably be many generations before the custom is abandoned, if indeed it is ever to be given up. As to actual dangers that may arise from dead bodies buried beneath the ground, it cannot be claimed that these are imminent. Disease is mainly transmitted from the living person, and now that we have more definite knowledge of factors involved in the transmis sion of disease, the bogy of danger arising from burial has little terror for us. It can hardly be claimed with much show of justification that such a water-born disease as typhoid can orig inate from the water that may percolate through the ground in cemeteries and ultimately reach a potable supply. This danger is theoretical rather than practical, and the amount of time spent in devising methods to prevent such con tamination would be much more rationally em ployed in taldng care of the excreta of the liv ing. The contamination of the earth, the air and the water is therefore, really of secondary importance; yet it cannot be denied that, except ing some exclusive cemeteries, the present methods of burial are disgusting; and in times of war or pestilence not only is burial disagree able, but there is no doubt that contagion may arise from it, and hence special portable crem atories have an undeniable place. See CREMATION OF THE DEAD.