A Brief Look at the History of Funerals

Ancient Funeral Practices

The history of funerals is varied and diverse in practice. Ancient Egyptians mummified and buried their dead with riches in pyramids to pass into the afterlife. Similarly, Aztecs and Mayan tribes buried their dead in elaborate tombs with belongings and food as an offering to the departed soul. 

Roman funerals were often a show of wealth and prestige of the deceased, an incredibly costly affair with processions and public feasts. In East and Southeast Asia, belief in reincarnation and practices of reading Buddhist or Hindu scripture to the dying loved one and placing them in a coffin before cremation was common throughout the history of funerals.

history of funerals

Transition into Modern Day

The history of funerals also provides specific examples of how certain traditions have been maintained in the modern-day funerals we know today in the UK. For example, flowers were used to mask the unpleasant scents of the corpse historically. Today, while they are no longer used for scent purposes, they are still used to honour the dead symbolically. 

The history of funerals includes not just flowers but funeral orations and eulogies as well. Ancient Greek funerals had orations to laud the dead and show respect for the dead such as fallen soldiers. Today, eulogies are a speech made, usually by loved ones of the deceased, to honour memories and their life. Some famous eulogies throughout the history of funerals include the space shuttle Challenger tragedy and Oprah Winfrey’s Ode to Rosa Parks.

Funerals of Today

Today, funerals are evolving with new traditions being made. More people are considering cremations. Technology is also playing a role during pandemic times, with virtual funerals becoming more developed. The history of funerals is rich with tradition, and today is making its own mark in funeral practice. 


Capital Life is here to offer advice on your funeral plan and support in the different aspects of your funeral. Contact us or call us on 0800 411 8683, and we will be eager to help.