Burial is the act of interring a person or object in the ground, and is probably the simplest and most common method of disposing of a body. It is generally accepted to be one of the earliest detectable forms of religious practice. Christian burials soemtimes demand that the body be laid flat, with arms and legs extended and aligned east-west, with the head at the western end of the grave. This is to allow them to view the coming of Christ on Judgment day. In Islam, the head is pointed toward and the face turned to Mecca. Warriors in some ancient cultures were interred upright, and an upside down position is typically symbolic of suicides, or as a punishment.
2. Burial at Sea
Burial at sea is the term used for the procedure of disposing of human remains in the ocean. Many cultures have regulations to make burial at sea accessible and it is fast becoming a popular choice. Traditionally, the service is conducted by the captain or commanding officer of the ship or aircraft.
Possibilities include burial in a weighted casket, burial in an urn, being sewn into sailcloth or scattering the cremated remains.
Most major religions permit burial at sea, and some have very specific rituals concerning it.
Entombment is the act of placing human remains in a structurally enclosed space or burial chamber. The body is not consigned directly to the earth but rather is kept within a specially designed sealed chamber. There are many different forms of tombs, from mausoleums to elaborate (and often decorative) family crypts to a simple cave with a sealed entrance.
Cremation is the process of reducing dead bodies to basic chemical compounds in the form of gases and bone fragments. This is most often performed in a crematorium, though some cultures, such as in India, do practice open-air cremation. Generally, temperatures of no less than 1500oF are required to ensure complete disintegration. After the process is complete, the dry bone fragments that remain are swept out of the retort (the chamber in which the body is immolated) and passed through a cremulator. This machine grinds the bones into a fine, sand-like powder.
Exposure is not typically practiced intentionally in the West today. However, there are people who dispose of bodies in this manner on a regular basis. Tibetan sky burial (known as a jahtor ) is the ritual dissection of the body, which is then laid out for the animals or the elements to dispose of. After being sent on their way with ceremony, the remains of the deceased are toted up to a designated location, where the body is laid out (typically naked). Then the rogyapas (body-breakers) go to work. Parsees in India do soemthing similar but rely on the birds to deal with the yogurt coated bodies. The bones then fall into a pit.
The Egyptians are the best-known practitioners of this process (although they are far from the only ones), in which a corpse has its skin and organs preserved, by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity or lack of air. The oldest mummy found to date was a decapitated head that dates back to 6000 BC. The earliest Egyptian mummy dates back to about 3300 BC. It is possible for a body to undergo natural mummification. The extreme cold of a glacier in the Ötztal Alps resulted in the mummification of a hunter who lived about 5,300 years ago, now known as Ötzi the Iceman. Bog bodies, who were victims of murder or ritual sacrifice, are a common find in certain parts of Europe.
Taxidermy is the act of mounting, or reproducing, dead animals for display (eg. as hunting trophies) or for other sources of study. However, some people haven’t let that stop them from having themselves taxidermied after death. The process is rather simple, but requires a lot of skill. The animal is skinned and the innards disposed of. The skin is tanned and then placed on a polyurethane form. Clay is used to install glass eyes. Forms and eyes are commercially available from a number of suppliers. If not, taxidermists carve or cast their own forms.
One example is that of philospher Jeremy Bentham.
Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of humans and animals who can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future.
As perhaps the ultimate bid for immortality, plastination is a technique used in anatomy to preserve bodies or body parts. The water and fat are replaced by certain plastics, yielding specimens that can be touched, do not smell or decay and even retain most properties of the original sample. The resultant plastinates can be manipulated and positioned as desired. Plastinates are used as museum displays, as teaching tools and in anatomy studies.
Aquamation is said to be the most environment-friendly way of disposal of human bodies. The process involves the rapid disintegration of the human body into high quality fertilizers. In comparison with cremation, about 10% of the energy is used, and all of the associated pollution is avoided. With Aquamation, an individual body is gently placed in a clean, stainless steel vessel. A combination of water flow, temperature (~90C) and alkalinity are used to accelerate the natural course of tissue hydrolysis. Typically the process takes about four hours to complete.