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Human Cremation Process

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Human Cremation Process          History of Cremation

Human Cremation Process

All cremations are performed individually.  Exceptions can be made only in the case of close relatives, and then only with the prior written instructions of the authorizing agent(s) and only if state/provincial or local laws allow this.

The cremation process begins with the placement of the casket/container in the cremation chamber where it is subjected to intense heat and flame reaching temperatures between 1400 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.  All substances are consumed except bone fragments (calcium compounds) and any non-combustible materials, such as jewelry, dental gold, prosthesis, latches, hinges, etc., that were not removed prior to cremation as the temperature is not sufficient to consume them.

During the cremation process it may be necessary to open the cremation chamber and reposition the deceased in order to facilitate a complete and thorough cremation.

The time for cremation to be completed varies with the size and weight of each human deceased remains, but usually takes between 1-1/2 to 3 hours.

Following a cooling period, the cremated remains (also known as cremains or ashes) are then swept or raked from the cremation chamber.  Every effort is made to remove all human remains.  However, a small residue may remain in the cremation chamber, resulting in incidental commingling with other cremated remains.

After the cremated remains are removed from the cremation chamber.  All non-combustible materials that have not been removed prior to cremation, will be separated and removed from the bone fragments by visible or magnetic selection and will be disposed of by the crematory in a non-recoverable manner.

Once the bone fragments have been separated from other material, they may be further processed to reduce the size of the bone fragments to uniform particles.

Cremated remains, depending on the bone structure of the deceased, will weigh between 4 to 8 pounds, and are usually white in color, but can be other colors due to temperature variations and other factors.

The crematory should be provided with a cremation urn in which the cremated remains will be placed.  If no cremation urn is provided or the cremation urn is not large enough, to hold the remains, the crematory will place the remains or any excess remains in a container made of plastic, light metal, cardboard, unfinished wood, or other suitable material to hold the remains until a cremation urn is acquired or the cremated remains are scattered.

History of Cremation & Cremation Urns


Scholars today quite generally agree that cremation probably began in any real sense during the Stone Age -- around 3000 B.C. -- and most likely in Europe and the Near East.

During the late Stone Age cremation began to spread across northern Europe, as evidence by particularly informative finds of decorative pottery cremation urns in western Russia among the Slavic peoples.

With the advent of the Bronze Age -- 2500 to 1000 B.C. -- cremation moved into the British Isles and into what in now Spain and Portugal.  Cemeteries for cremation developed in Hungary and northern Italy, spreading to northern Europe and even Ireland.

In the Mycenaean Age -- circa 1000 B.C. -- cremation became an integral part of the elaborate Grecian burial custom.  In fact, it became the dominant mode of disposition, by the time of Homer in 800 B.C. and was actually encouraged for reasons of health and expedient burial of slain warriors in this battle-ravaged country.

Following this Grecian trend, the early Romans probably embraced cremation sometime around 600 B.C. and it apparently became so prevalent that an official decree had to be issued in the mid-5th Century against the cremation of bodies within the city limits.

By the time of the Roman Empire -- 27 B.C. to 395 A.D. -- cremation was widely practiced, and cremated remains were generally stored in elaborate cremation urns, often within columbarium-like buildings.

Prevalent though the practice was among the Romans, cremation was rare with the early Christians who considered it pagan and in the Jewish culture where traditional sepulcher entombment was preferred.

However, by 400 A.D. as a result of Constantine's Christianization of the Empire, earth burial had completely replaced cremation except for rare instances of plague or war, and for the next 1,500 years burial remained the accepted mode of disposition throughout Europe.

Modern cremation, as we know it, actually began only a little over a century ago, after years of experimentation into the development of a dependable chamber.  When Professor Brunetti, of Italy, finally perfected his model and displayed it at the 1873 Vienna Exposition, the cremation movement started almost simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the British Isles, the movement was fostered by Queen Victoria's surgeon, Sir Henry Thompson.  Concerned with hazardous health conditions, Sir Henry and his colleagues founded the Cremation Society of England, in 1874.  The first crematories in Europe were built in 1878 in Woking, England and Gotha, Germany.

Meanwhile, in North America, although there had been two recorded instances of cremation before 1800, the real start began in 1878 when Dr. Julius LeMoyne built the first crematory in Washington, Pennsylvania.

In 1884, the second crematory opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and, as was true of many of the early crematories, it was owned and operated by a cremation society.  Other forces behind early crematory openings were Protestant clergy who desired to reform burial practices and the medical profession concerned with health conditions around early cemeteries.

Crematories soon sprang up in Buffalo, New York, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Los Angeles.  By 1900, there weere already 20 crematories in operation, and by the time that Dr. Hugo Erichsen founded the Cremation Association of America, in 1913, there were 52 crematories in North America and over 10,000 cremations took place in 1913.

In 1975, the name was changed to the Cremation Association of North America to be more indicative of the membership composition of the United States and Canada.  At that time, there were over 425 crematories and nearly 150,000 cremations performed each year.

In 1999, there were 1,468 crematories and 595,617 cremations being performed, a percentage of 25.39% of all deaths in the United States.
                                                                               Information from:  The Cremation Association of North America

What is the Cremation Trend?

Cremations as percentage of deaths are rising rapidly.  In 1998, 553,000 Americans were cremated.  The United States national rate is 26%.  Canada's cremation rate is 45%.  In England and Japan, it is 90%.  These rates will continue to increase for a number of reasons.

Economic:  The direct and indirect costs associated with cremation are much lower than traditional burial.

Environmental:  Less land, if any depending on deposition, is used. 

Sanitary:  Concerns that in-ground burial can contaminate water supplies for entire communities.  There is more flexibility to the deposition of the cremated remains compared to a casket burial.

For these reasons, cremation has become an acceptable, and for many, preferable form of deposition.

The last few decades have seen dramatic increase in cremation as an alternative form of final disposition to the traditional burial.  This has increased the need for options when determining a final resting place for the remains.  Some families choose to scatter the remains in a meaningful way; however, a majority chooses to place them in a permanent container or cremation urn.  Cremation urns can be placed in a columbarium niche at a cemetery, in a cremation urn garden, or they can be taken home with the family.  Placing the remains in a permanent cremation urn container should be an important consideration for a family to make as opposed to scattering them.  Scattering the cremated remains (cremains or ashes) is irreversible. 

With changes in our mobile society and the potential of families moving to different areas of the country or world, cremation is becoming more popular with families worried about leaving a loved behind or alone, should the family have to relocate in the future.  By having their loved one's remains placed in a cremation urn allows them to take their deceased loved one with them, should the family have to unexpectedly relocate.

Cremation urns are purchased many times with the intention of it being a memorial to a loved one.  There are factors to keep in mind when purchasing a cremation urn.  Cremation urns come in a variety styles and materials.  Cremation urns can be made of wood, stone, ceramic, clay, glass, and metal.  There are the typically cremation urn styles and newer contemporary styles, that can look like a picture frame or a clock.  Cremation urns also will vary in price from $100 up into the $1,000's.  The new cremation urns styles allow you a variety of options, where you can personalize your loved one's cremation urn to reflect their unique personality and style.  The new style cremation urns also can have options available where you can add special wording to reflect as a memorial or a tribute to a loved one.

With many families living in many different places a popular cremation urn is used, called a keepsake cremation urn or a sharing cremation urn.  It is smaller size urns that hold a portion of a loved one's remains.  Rather than just one family member holding onto all of the cremated remains, multiple family members each take a portion.  This is very popular with families that live far away from each other.

Another popular cremation urn style that is new and becoming very popular are cremation urns called side-by-side cremation urns or companion urns.  It is one urn that contains two compartments to hold the cremated remains of two people.  This is very popular with married couples, twins, for a mother and child, or life partners.  At Heritage Urns, our companion or side-by-side cremation urns are called Partners In Life Cremation Urns.  These truly are the perfect cremation urns for those people that were inseparable in life, can now be together forever, with these special and popular new style cremation urns. 

When looking for your loved ones cremation urn, we recommend that you take time to see all the cremation urns styles and options that are available to you.  Looking on-line for a cremation urn gives you the opportunity to view the many cremation urns available and for you to find the perfect one for your loved one.  This is a very important purchase and do not feel rushed into making a decision.  Even if your loved one is ready to be cremated, the crematorium will provide you with a temporary cremation container that will hold your loved one's remains, until you have acquired the perfect cremation urn for your loved one.  Finding the perfect cremation urn will help in the grieving process, by allowing you to feel you have found the cremation urn worthy as a memorial to your loved one.  That is one thing that cremation allows families is time to decide on their loved one's final resting place and not feel rushed as families feel with burial in having to make a decision on a casket and burial locations.  Cremation allows you time if you need it and it allows you time to find a way to honor your loved one.  At Heritage Urns, all of our cremation urns, wood or granite, can be personalized with engraving.  We have beautiful poems and tributes that you can have engraved to your loved one's memorial urn or create your own special poem or wording to honor their life with.
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If you need any help in choosing a cremation urn or have questions, please feel free to contact us at Heritage Urns, and we will be happy to assist you in any way that we can.  We hope you have found this information useful and helpful.