Question about funeral costs.

After reading this post, I wondered if any Doper(s) could provide a potted history of when funeral costs came into play? When did we begin having to pay money to dispose of our dead?

edited for accuracy.

This tells me that, at least in Jesus’ day, those who could afford it got tombs chiseled out of rock (and, presumably, those who couldn’t got less-dignified disposal of remains).

So for at least 2,000 years, if you believe the New Testament.

Even longer than that: try the 27th century B.C. when the first Egyptian pyramid, the Step Pyramid of Djozer was built.

But my question to the OP - why do you assume funerals were ever free? Labour always costs something, as do materials objects like shrouds or coffins. Why would the basic laws of economics not apply to funerals? :confused:

Surely there was a point where the family buried their dead on their own land, or land that nobody owned. Or are cemeteries one of those things that defines us as a civilized people? In other words, have we had dedicated cemeteries since the dawn of civilization?

Sure there are cultures where funerals do not cost money.

In Islamic Northern Cameroon, people are buried wrapped in a sheet. They are either buried in their family compound (to protect against grave-robbers) or else where they died (if you die outside of town in a car wreck or something they will often bury you there to avoid bringing your bad luck and ghosts back to the village.) The funeral itself is a simple affair where the family sits for three days and visitors come in and out to keep them company and provide simple meals of porridge. I don’t think it really costs anyone much of anything. There are surely plenty of other cultures that do basically the same thing.

But in general, burying the dead in some ceremonial manner is considered to be one of the first signs of human culture and dates back to caveman times. Death is the greatest and most inevitable of the human mysteries, so we’ve always made a big deal out of it.

So, money and death arrived at the same time did they? Obviously not. So at some point people obviously made their own arrangements, which would have cost them no more than their time. I suppose I’m really wondering when the disposal of the dead actually became a profit-making organisation aspect of human life.

But they almost invariably cost time and effort. Even before the concept of money was invented, there was the cost of getting the family/tribe to take time out from hunting/gathering/farming/shelter building/cave painting to gather round and pay their respects. Plus the non-negligible investment of time and effort in digging a hole to stick the corpse in.

To answer the OP strictly - funerals have cost money ever since we invented the idea of money. Funerals themselves have had a considerable cost since we stopped letting our dead rot where they dropped, and as you point out that is a very long time indeed. Given the observed grieving behaviour of elephants, it may be that funerals have existed since before we were recogniseably human.

I’d say that the commercialisation of the material side of a burial for ordinary people is quite recent; most people can dig their own hole, make their own wooden casket, and serve a meal to visitors. So, my guess is about 1700.

On the other hand, I’d say that the commercialisation of the religious side of a burial is very very old. Even for ordinary people. I assume that ever since there are professional priests, those priests need to earn a livelyhood, and one way of doing so is by performing all sorts of rituals and sacrifices to send the dead on their way and console the family. So…10.000 years?

Is that ever done today in the US? My gf was riding her horse last weekend and encountered a grave site in a clearing in the woods. There was a huge boulder with a name (Sarah IIRC) chiseled into the stone. The were fresh flowers on the grave.

It may have been a pet, but it sure looked like a person’s grave. :confused:

There are zillions of small family graveyards on old estates throughout the Hudson Valley and New England. I don’t know if they still bury people in them (especially if the same family no longer owns the land) but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Those little family graveyards are not uncommon here in Pennsylvania as well. Often the land has changed hands many times since that family owned it. Here’s a question, if I am the present owner of land that has one of those old family burial plots, am I under any legal obligation to preserve it? I mean, if I say to myself, “That cemetery is just exactly where a gazebo would look really swell!” does anybody know of any state or local laws that would prevent me from renting a backhoe and digging the whole thing up?