National Geographic: Ancient Graves: Voices of the Dead

Synopsis:
Year:
1998
9 Views

We don't want to see the dead

with open eyes-

no, you think, wow,

that would scare me.

You want to see the dead

completely dead.

In the case of the Chinchorro,

they're seeing the dead

as part of the living."

Virtual works of art, their mummies

were not intended for the grave.

They played an important role

in the very heart of the community.

The mummy was an honored emissary who

moved between this world and the next-

sending word to the ancestors,

interceding before the gods.

The people rendered thanks

with songs and offerings.

Mummification helped ease the loss

of a loved one,

and strengthened bonds

between the living.

It made the community whole again.

Such rituals may have quelled the

awful fear of what lies beyond death-

no less a mystery 7,000 years ago

than today.

One of the earliest expressions

of the human spirit,

death rites date back at least

Even the Neanderthals buried

one of their own

beneath a blanket of flowers.

Every culture on earth

has evolved rituals

to bid a final farewell to the dead.

Some consign the body to

the embrace of the earth.

Others ensure the release

of the soul through fire.

In today's crowded world,

the practice of cremation is on the

rise wherever land is at a premium.

We even send our dead into space.

For about the cost of

a terrestrial burial,

a company in Texas will load

a container of ashes on a small rocket.

After orbiting for several years,

the ashes eventually fall into

Earth's atmosphere and vaporize,

like a tiny shooting star.

It's a fitting twenty-

first century sendoff...

but would have been unthinkable

in one of the greatest civilizations

the Earth has ever known.

The ancient Egyptians believed

the body had to last forever.

Without it,

the deceased could not rise again

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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