Authored by: Douglas J. Davies

The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138852075
eBook ISBN: 9781315723747
Adobe ISBN:


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Cremation holds a significant place in anthropology as a major ritualized mode of dealing with the universal concern of treating dead bodies. Here some anthropologists with distinctive approaches to cremation are discussed from the later nineteenth to the early twenty-first centuries. E. B. Tylor’s 1871 foundational “introduction to the study of man and civilization,” entitled Anthropology, briefly commented on cremation while offering no theoretical analysis. His classical education ensured mention of “the burning of Patroclus,” one heroic figure of Homer’s Iliad, whose cremation and cremated remains were notable in antique mythology. Tylor’s comparative approach also sketched the care of cremated remains in ancient times as well as the Indian practice of suttee (or sati), the conjoint cremation of a husband’s corpse with the still-living wife (1871: 347).

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