March 18, 2016

The Bios Urn

Instead of visiting your dearly departed grandmother in a cemetery, now it's possible to watch her ashes turn into a tree on your balcony.

This Urn Turns You Into A Potted Tree After You Die

The Bios Urn, made from coconut shells, compacted peat, and cellulose, holds a person's ashes along with a seed for a tree. As the urn decomposes, the tree roots take up the ashes and break through the small pod. Though the urn can be planted in the ground, the designers realized that city-dwellers not have access to land—and might want to keep a family member closer....

In response, they designed a new "tree incubator" called the Incube, a pot small enough to fit on a balcony or deck. The biodegradable urn fits inside. It also comes with a small kit of sensors that measure moisture, temperature, and sunlight, as well as an automatic watering system to keep the tree alive. An app allows for tracking the growth of the tree.

The designers are raising funds for manufacturing on Kickstarter.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:57 PM | Permalink

January 16, 2016

'So, we have Smithson’s monument all mangled to shit, his casket broken open, his 150-year old skeleton exposed to all and sundry, and now everything is ON FIRE."

James Smithson, the illegitimate son of the 1st Duke of Northumberland, died without children so his nephew became his sole heir but he died without children as well.  So begins the extraordinary story, The Creation of the Smithsonian which is hilarious and must be read in its entirety.  Here's one excerpt:

....the curator of the Smithsonian in 1973 impulsively decided to exhume Smithson AGAIN. On the basis of ghost stories.

Workmen took out the casket, which they discovered was made of metal and soldered shut. The curator told them to use their flashlights to bust the casket open. In doing so, they managed to catch the silk lining inside the casket on fire.....

So, we have Smithson’s monument all mangled to shit, his casket broken open, his 150-year old skeleton exposed to all and sundry, and now everything is ON FIRE.

Then, “He didn’t want them to ruin the silk by using an extinguisher so he told them to fill their mouths with water and come back to spray it down. So they did it.”

The silk is already ruined. It’s on fire. And if you, A CURATOR, were so concerned with preservation, why did you have random workmen bust open a sealed relic with improper tools, without any authorization to do so?

And now, to cap things off, a whole group of people are just spitting on James Smithson. Congratulations. This might be the worst thing I’ve ever written about on this blog.

-James Smithson Remains

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 PM | Permalink

April 24, 2015

“Exciting place, a graveyard. Least I always think so. Always something going on."

`Some Frail Memorial Still Erected Nigh'

 Church Strumons Cornwall-1

In Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place (Granta, 2014), Philip Marsden visits Tregony, a village in Cornwall, and approaches two men in the churchyard of St. Rumon’s. One is digging a grave. The other is “busy leaning on his spade.” Marsden describes the latter as “an elderly man with a jowly face” who is “quite happy to interrupt his leaning for a little chat.”….

“`Exciting place, a graveyard. Least I always think so. Always something going on.’ We looked around at the headstones and the empty paths and the shadowy places beneath the sycamore. He extended a finger to an age-skewed memorial beside us. `Best stones are they [sic] slate ones – like that. Nice curly writing. Stays hundreds of years on slate – not like the limestone. Weather gets to the limestone and it’s gone in no time, wiped away.’”

Patrick Kurp then goes on to quote these lines from Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"

“Yet even these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

“Their name, their years, spelt by the unlettered muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:27 PM | Permalink

April 23, 2015

Mugging in a graveyard

The  93-year-old  'Miracle on Ice' team doctor was laying flowers on his wife's grave when he was  'mugged and brutally beaten by teen with a snowbrush' 

A physician, 93, who team doctor for five U.S. men's Olympic hockey squads, including the 'Miracle on Ice' team that won in the 1980's, has suffered serious injuries in an attack while visiting his wife's grave on Sunday.

George Nagobads was allegedly mugged by a teenager on Sunday afternoon at the Crystal Lake Cemetery in Minneapolis while laying flowers on his wife Velta's grave.  He was released from the hospital on Tuesday with 18 stitches in his head.
'I brought new flowers and was just stooping down,' said Nagobads of honoring his wife Velta Nagobads who died in 2005.  Nagobads said that by throwing his wallet in attempt to distract the teen he was able to get away without further harm.  'I’m so lucky. … I used that little trick and threw the wallet to get to my car' about 40 yards away, the doctor said.  As the boy picked up the wallet, Nagobads continued, 'I was running … really fast. I was surprised how I could run like this.'
Nagobads said that he bled heavily while behind the wheel of his car and risked being stopped by a cop.
'I drove way over the speed limit. If a cop catches me, that’s fine,' he said he thought after the attack on Sunday. 

Witness Justin McCarthy says he saw a young man around the age of 14 or 15 looking through a wallet near the mausoleum before fleeing by bicycle and jumping over a fence. 'I saw the kid there. I put two and two together, and I just got really mad,' said McCarthy.  McCarthy said he chased the teen but not very far.
'I’m 52 and I’m kind of fat. It wasn’t going to happen. … I was completely exhausted,' said McCarthy.

Mccarthy said that Nagobads told him, 'I gave him my wallet, and he still tried to kill me.’ Nagobads was the University of Minnesota men's hockey team physician for 34 years until his retirement in 1992.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

April 21, 2015

The strangest grave I've ever seen

Neanderthal who fell down a sinkhole 150,000 years ago starved to death and FUSED with its walls
"It was a gruesome death that is the stuff of most people's nightmares. Now scientists have identified the unfortunate individual whose bones were found fused to the walls of a cave in Lamalunga, near Altamura, in southern Italy.
Using analysis of DNA extracted from the bones sticking out from the limestone rock, researchers have found he was a Neanderthal who fell down a sinkhole around 150,000 years ago.

 Altamura Man

The researchers now hope that further analysis of the DNA might reveal new insights into Neanderthal evolution. It is nearly 100,000 years older than other previously sequenced Neanderthal DNA."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

April 20, 2015

Bog Bodies - Uncannily preserved remains from the peat marshes of northern Europe

In Archaeology. Bog Bodies Rediscovered
"Aside from a bit of periodontal disease, he was a healthy man in his 30s, about 5'7" tall, with a strong build. He had recently eaten porridge made from barley, grass, wheat, and herbs, and maybe a few bites of pork. But the meal was his last. Between 12 and 24 hours after dinner, he was strangled. His throat was slashed from ear to ear, and his body was thrown into a Danish peat bog. He lay in this grave until 1952, when residents of the nearby village of Grauballe were cutting peat for fuel and found his remains. He still had his skin and a full head of hair. Soon he became known as Grauballe Man and although it looks like he died recently, he lived almost 2,300 years ago.

 Grauballe Man-1

“Bog bodies are special because they have flesh. They look like us,” says Jody Joy, the British Museum curator who is responsible for the care of Lindow Man’s remains….. “But bog bodies are not just archaeological finds,” says University of Copenhagen scholar and bog body expert Niels Lynnerup. “They are extraordinarily intact human remains, and deserve to be treated as such.” The people on the next pages may appear gruesome, even horrifying. But they all have stories—some innocent and some macabre—written in their uncannily preserved remains."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

April 10, 2015

Strange cemetery

The Pilots’ Graveyard
The Ämari Air Base in Estonia was once a busy hub of the Soviet Air Force. There’s a cemetery in a forested area of the base. Eric Grundhauser of Atlas Obscura reports that during the Soviet occupation of Estonia, some pilots were buried beneath the vertical stabilizer fins of their aircraft. Grundhauser writes that “the effect almost looks as though a squadron of the ships are burrowing through the ground with their fins above the surface like sharks.”

 Pilots' Graveyard-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 PM | Permalink

March 17, 2015

Archaeologists find Cervantes in a forgotten crypt in same building where he was first buried

Remains discovered in Madrid chapel ARE those of Don Quixote author Cervantes: Archaeologists solve mystery of writer's resting place after bones vanished in 1673

Archaeologists have discovered the long lost remains of Miguel de Cervantes - the author of Don Quixote- in a Madrid chapel.  Forensic scientists said they found the bones of the famous Spanish writer and his family in Madrid's Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians.

-Cervantes  Portrait of Miguel de Cervantes

The author of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha,' considered the most influential work of Spanish literature, was buried in 1616 and the church was later rebuilt.  But his remains were moved into the new building in the late 17th Century, and disappeared.

Cervantes was 69 when he died in 1616 and in accordance with his wishes, he was buried in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in Madrid's historic Barrio de las Letras, or Literary Quarter.  His remains were then lost for centuries after his bones mysteriously went missing in 1673 when building works was done at the convent. 

Earlier this year  archaeologists used 3D scanners, infrared cameras and ground-penetrating radar to discover a forgotten crypt under the building.  Inside the niche, they found the lid of a coffin with the initials MC - for Miguel de Cervantes - and bones of at least ten people were also found inside the niche. 

Investigators were able to use clues from the author's own stories to help them identify the remains. Shortly before his death Cervantes wrote that he only has six teeth, but the most obvious marks were his battle wounds.  In 1571, the writer was injured in the Battle of Lepanto, which pitted Ottoman Turkish forces against the Holy League, led by Spain. Aboard the ship La Marquesa, Cervantes was hit with three musket shots, two in the chest and one in his hand.
Investigator Luis Avial told a news conference on Tuesday that Cervantes would be reburied 'with full honors' in the same convent after a new tomb had been built, according to his wishes.

-Convento De Las Trinitarias Descalzas (Madrid) 05 Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians.

Quotes from Don Quixote which I read in college and again a few years ago, laughing out loud in places

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”

“I do not deny that what happened to us is a thing worth laughing at. But it is not worth telling, for not everyone is sufficiently intelligent to be able to see things from the right point of view.”

“Until death it is all life”

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

"Can we ever have too much of a good thing?

"Every man is as Heaven made him, and sometimes a great deal worse.

"Time ripens all things. No man is born wise.

"Honesty's the best policy.

Arnold Hauser on Cervantes "Before Cervantes there had only been good and bad characters, deliverers and traitors, saints and blasphemers, in literature; here the hero is saint and fool in one and the same person."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2015

"Cemeteries are for me like bookshops"

Theodore Dalrymple in And Death Shall Have His Dominion

Cemeteries are for me like bookshops; I find it difficult to resist the temptation to enter them and linger awhile.  I have been like this ever since my adolescence and I do not think I am morbid. On the contrary, I find it strange that some hurry past cemeteries either without a second look or even with a shudder. Meditation on the transience of life, intermittent rather than continuous and rejuvenating rather than paralysing, is important for achieving equanimity. And there is no better aid to such meditation, I find, than a good graveyard....

I prefer to wander at random among the 65,000 graves than seek out anyone in particular....Although I do not seek out the famous, it is pleasant to stumble across them from time to time.....Père-Lachaise, perhaps any cemetery, is an antidote to pride and self-importance....One of the more curious political tombs is that of Masih Rasti Mobarake (1946 – 2004). ‘Communism,’ says the inscription, ‘is humanity’s resurrection,’ a rather curious choice of words, when you come to think of it, of militant atheists.....

But most of the tombs in Père-Lachaise, as in every other cemetery, are of people who led ordinary lives. I liked the words of the wife of Émile Huron (1883 – 1949) inscribed on his tomb, not orthodox but surely deeply felt:

Your memory is my religion
This tomb is my homeland.
        You… my love.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink

December 19, 2014

A Million Mummies found buried with care in central Egypt

Cemetery with one MILLION mummies unearthed in Egypt: 1,500-year-old desert necropolis is the largest ever found

A cemetery containing more than a million mummified human bodies has been unearthed in central Egypt, according to archaeologists. Scientists have already excavated more than 1,700 mummies, preserved by the hot dry desert in the Faiyum region of Egypt about 60 miles south of Cairo.  But those leading the work believe their could be up to a million similar bodies buried in shafts cut into the limestone rock that are at times up to 75ft deep.
It is thought that the mummies were buried around 1,500 years ago, between the 1st and 7th Century AD, when Egypt was controlled by the Roman and Byzantine Empire.  Unlike many famous mummified remains discovered in Egypt, these were found in mass graves and appear to be ordinary citizens rather than royalty or other important figures.
Archaeologists have also uncovered a bizarre range of mummies, including one man who is more than seven feet (213 cm) tall.  They have also discovered that the mummies appear to be clustered together by hair color, with those with blond hair in one area and all of those with red hair in another.
Among the recent discoveries made last year were the mummified remains of a little girl aged around 18 months old, still with two bracelets on each arm….Professor Muhlestein said there appears to have also been some attempt by those who buried her to use the full mummification process.  Writing on the team's Facebook page, which Professor Muhlestein only recently updated in an attempt to keep the discoveries secret, said: '

This mummy was beautifully wrapped in a tunic and with other nice wrappings. …'There was some evidence that they tried much of the full mummification process. The toes and toenails and brain and tongue were amazingly preserved.

'We found a wonderful necklace and two bracelets on each arm. The jewelry makes us think it was a girl, but we cannot tell.  'She was buried with great care as someone who obviously loved her very much did all they could to take care of this little girl in burial. Very sad. 'But they succeeded, it was a beautiful burial.
The burials are not in tombs, but rather in a field of sand. The people in the cemetery represent the common man.  'They are the average people who are usually hard to learn about because they are not very visible in written sources.

'They were poor, yet they put a tremendous amount of their resources into providing beautiful burials.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink

December 5, 2014

The Merry Cemetery

The Weirdest Cemeteries In The World  From Sapanta, Romania comes The Merry Cemetery noted for its cheery disposition.


 Cemetery-Sapanta-Cross 2

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 PM | Permalink

November 21, 2014

Scrabble Tombstone

The Tombstone of a Dedicated Scrabble Player

Paul G. Lind of Portland, Oregon loved to play Scrabble. When he passed away, his friends and family erected this custom tombstone that shows in Scrabble form what they remembered most about him. Lind now rests beneath this monument at the Lone Fir Cemetery in southeastern Portland. A year ago, after vandals defaced the tombstone, local Scrabble players held a tournament to raise money for its restoration.

 Scrabble Tombstone

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 AM | Permalink

September 29, 2014

"'Buried alive by accident and died before she could be rescued'

Greek woman 'buried alive by accident and died before she could be rescued'

Police in northern Greece are investigating a cemetery worker's testimony that a woman was buried alive and cried for help from her grave - only to die before being rescued.

The man and two visitors to the cemetery told police officials that they heard banging and muffled shouts from inside the 49-year-old cancer patient's grave late yesterday, an hour after her funeral.

By the time the coffin was dug up and smashed open, the woman showed no further signs of life. A doctor summoned to Peraia cemetery outside Thessaloniki pronounced her dead

The mother of two had been first declared dead at a private Thessaloniki clinic earlier the same day. A coroner will examine the body.

A doctor who examined the woman's body claimed that she could not have been buried alive, and had been dead for hours.

I just don't believe it,' Chrissi Matsikoudi told Greek television channel MEGA. 'We did several tests including one for heart failure on the body.'She added that 'someone in a state of rigor mortis' could not have been 'shouting and hitting the coffin like that'

The dead woman's relatives are considering filing a complaint against the doctors who treated her at the cancer clinic.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 AM | Permalink

September 22, 2014

Grave fashion

In Egypt.  3,000-year-old remains of woman unearthed with 70 hair extensions tied in intricate layers

The skull was one of hundreds found in the ancient city of Amarna, many of which had their final hairstyles incredibly well-preserved using fat….Some of the skulls shows evidence of a dye, possibly henna, used on hair.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:12 AM | Permalink

September 19, 2014

Old graves from 700, 2400 and 4500 years ago yield secrets

Hand in hand for 700 years: Two skeletons with arms entwined are unearthed in Leicestershire's mysterious 'lost chapel'

A couple who have been holding hands for 700 years have been uncovered at a 'lost' chapel in Leicestershire.
The centuries-old skeletons were unearthed at the Chapel of St Morrell, a site of pilgrimage in Hallaton during the 14th Century.

 14Th Century-Skeletons-Holdinghands-1

The excavations found the walls and tiled floor of the chapel as well as fragments of the stone masonry, tiles and lead from the windows.

A number of silver pennies dating from between the 11th - 15th centuries have also been found on the site indicating when the chapel was in use.

Why people were buried at the Chapel rather than in the main church in the village is unknown but it is possible that this was a special place of burial perhaps for pilgrims.

Historian William Burton mentions in 1641 that ‘Halloughton…a place of special holiness (the etymon of the name importing as much as Holy-town) so as sick folks did use to flock thither to die’.

What lies beyond the third chamber? Archaeologists move further inside Alexander the Great era tomb - but will it collapse?

Access to the third chamber was made possible after experts unearthed two sculpted female figures, known as Caryatids, last week.  By removing a large volume of soil, behind the wall bearing the two sculpted female figures, they were able to uncover the next chamber.  Until now, experts had only partially investigated the antechamber of the tomb and uncovered a marble wall concealing one or more inner chambers.

Experts believe the ancient mound, situated around 65 miles from Thessaloniki, was built for a prominent Macedonian in around 300 to 325BC. …. Before the discovery of the Caryatids, it was feared the ‘incredibly important’ tomb dating to the time of Alexander the Great had been plundered in antiquity.
Archaeologist said that a hole in the decorated wall, and signs of forced entry, indicated it had been looted. But the discovery of the female sculptures gave fresh hope that some treasure may have survived, after all.  The face of one of the Caryatids is missing but both have one hand outstretched to push away tomb raiders

The Caryatids are made of marble and support an inner entrance into the tomb. They feature the same sculpting technique used for the heads and wings of two sphinxes found guarding the main entrance of the tomb last month.
Archaeologists have said that the Amphipolis site appears to be the largest ancient tomb ever discovered in Greece at 1,935ft  wide.  Last month, pictures emerged of a pair of sphinxes guarding the grave's main entrance beneath a large arch and experts said that most of the earth around the mythical creatures had been removed to reveal part of a marble lintel with frescoes.

Chief archaeologist Katerina Peristeri said that the monument being uncovered is a unique tomb, not just for Greece but for the entire Balkanic peninsula, and described it as being of ‘global interest’.

 Alexander's Tomb?

Neolithic necropolis with 20 monumental tombs found in France

Dating to around 4,500 B.C., the tombs are of the Passy kind, named after the municipality in Burgundy 70 miles southeast of Paris where the these long funerary structures were found and radiocarbon dated for the first time.
The Fleury-sur-Orne monuments range in length from 40 feet to 985 feet and are enclosed on both sides by ditches 8 inches to 50 feet wide. The ditches may have contained palisades made from trees felled by stone adzes. The earth from the ditches was piled up in the center of the structure forming a mound that housed one or more graves of important people. Many of these mounds have eroded away or been destroyed by agriculture, development or war. One of the 20 structures excavated at Fleury, however, is intact and in excellent condition. The original walls of stacked grass turf are extant if somewhat reduced. Archaeologists believe they were at least six and a half feet high originally.
In one of the tombs, 200-foot-long Monument 19, archaeologists found a single grave of a man buried with an impressive seven sheep. A grave in Monument 26 was found to contain a pelvis with a sharp arrowhead embedded in it.
We don’t now a great deal about the people who built Passy-type funerary monuments. They were the descendants of the Danubian culture, first agrarian society in central and eastern Europe who migrated to France in around 5,500 B.C. and mixed with the local hunter-gatherers to produce the monument-builders known as the Cerny culture. These monumental necropolises were the first of their kind, not just in Europe but anywhere that we know of, predating the pyramids of Egypt by thousands of years.
Since they required an exceptional amount of labour to benefit very few people, they may be indications of a burgeoning hierarchical society, but it’s unlikely that it would have been so developed as to have a massive captive workforce. This was a community effort, and it’s possible therefore that the monuments served a community purpose as well, perhaps as a locus of religious rituals and/or feasts.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 AM | Permalink

September 17, 2014

King Richard III hacked to death in War of Roses, Game of Thrones

The remains of King Richard III, lost  for over 500 years until 2012 when archeologists using  ground-penetrating radar found them under a car park in the central English city of Leicester have now undergone forensic examination.

The University of Leicester, relying on mitochondrial DNA evidence, soil analysis, dental tests and the physical characteristics of the skeleton, confirmed 'beyond a reasonable doubt' that the remains were those of King Richard III.

From Wikipedia Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field.  He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, symbolizes the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the subject of the play Richard III by William Shakespeare.
After his death, Richard's image was tarnished by propaganda fostered by his Tudor successors (who sought to legitimize their claim to the throne),culminating in the famous portrayal of him in Shakespeare's play Richard III as a physically deformed machiavellian villain, albeit courageous and witty, cheerfully committing numerous murders in order to claw his way to power. 

The phrases "The winter of our discontent" and "My kingdom for a horse" both come from Shakespeare's play. 

Richard III's brutal last moments revealed: Forensics show how doomed king was hacked to death by 11 blows after losing his helmet (and his horse) in the Battle of Bosworth

Richard III was surrounded by soldiers and hacked to death after losing his helmet in battle, analysis of his remains suggests.

Medical scanners were used to establish that the king suffered 11 injuries from enemy soldiers at Bosworth Field in 1485.  The 32-year-old died after two blows to the back of his head – one from a sword and the other from a halberd, a medieval axe-like weapon.

 King Richard Iii Forensics

As nine of the injuries were to his skull, researchers at Leicester University suggest he had lost his heavy helmet.
The two other injuries may have been inflicted after his armour was torn from his body.  Wounds to his buttocks probably came as his bloodied corpse was paraded around the battle ground, they suggest.

The medical evidence establishes the most detailed account of Richard III’s death ever attempted and is published today in the Lancet medical journal.

His successor was Henry VII, the first Tudor king who won his throne by defeating King Richard III with the support of a small force of French and Scottish that increased his forces to about 5000.  His victory effectively ended the War of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York.  Henry's marriage to Elizabeth of York united the warring houses and his symbol became the Tudor rose.

Tudor Rose The Tudor Rose is a combination of the Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York.

The widely popular Game of Thrones is based loosely on the Wars of the Roses

The war between the Starks and the Lannisters also bears stark similarities to the Wars of the Roses between the English houses of Lancaster and York between 1455 and 1487.

Like the Starks, the House of York were northerners, like the Lannisters the House of Lancaster were southerners and extremely wealthy.

 Stannis Baratheon Stannis, brother of Robert Baratheon, was unfaltering in his loyalty to the King while he was alive, but after Robert's death, declared his own nephews illegitimate and tried to seize the throne for himself using some fairly controversial tactics.

Richard III, brother of King Edward IV, was also loyal up until the point of the King's death, upon which he declared his own nephews illegitimate, and succeeded to the throne after their 'disappearance'.

The counterpart to Henry Tudor?  Daenerys Targaryen. 
 Daenerys Targaryen-1

Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, took the throne from Richard III after crossing the channel with a foreign army in tow, marching through his birthplace and recruiting more troops along the way.
For many years before that, however, he lived a life of exile in France while chaos slowly spread in England, waiting for the perfect moment to seize his opportunity.

Not a little unlike Daenerys, who has been slowly amassing a huge army across the Narrow Sea (read: the English Channel) while plotting to invade her birthplace, rallying the loyal to her cause as she goes.

You can read lots more about the History Behind the Game of Thrones here with many contributions by noted historians

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:44 PM | Permalink

September 16, 2014

Evicted from their own graves

Mummified corpses removed from crypts after relatives can no longer afford fees in Guatemala

Armed only with a sledgehammer and mask to cover his mouth and nose, a Guatemalan grave-cleaner begins the wretched task of smashing open a crypt and removing whatever rank remains lurk inside.

 Sledgehammer To Tombs

A human skull with thick hair still clinging to it is pulled from one of the dark tombs, a miniature baby coffin, adorned with a white flower, from another. 

 Baby Exhumation

The men are removing the dead whose families can no longer afford the luxury of a private crypt and as soon as a lease on a grave expires, the cleaners will come and free up the space for a new paying customer.

Any remains that are not claimed will be stuffed into plastic bags, labelled and sent to a mass grave to be reburied.
Most of the corpses excavated are largely decomposed, but those that were laid to rest in the upper crypts, where conditions are hot and dry, become mummified.

As the team of grave-cleaners go to work in Guatemala City, their manner hardly appears different to laborers on a building site or workers at a recycling centre.

Bags of broken corpses are tossed into heaps like piles of garbage and transported on forklift trucks with the clothes they were buried in still on their backs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 PM | Permalink

Evicted from their own graves

Mummified corpses removed from crypts after relatives can no longer afford fees in Guatemala

Armed only with a sledgehammer and mask to cover his mouth and nose, a Guatemalan grave-cleaner begins the wretched task of smashing open a crypt and removing whatever rank remains lurk inside.

 Sledgehammer To Tombs

A human skull with thick hair still clinging to it is pulled from one of the dark tombs, a miniature baby coffin, adorned with a white flower, from another. 

 Baby Exhumation

The men are removing the dead whose families can no longer afford the luxury of a private crypt and as soon as a lease on a grave expires, the cleaners will come and free up the space for a new paying customer.

Any remains that are not claimed will be stuffed into plastic bags, labelled and sent to a mass grave to be reburied.
Most of the corpses excavated are largely decomposed, but those that were laid to rest in the upper crypts, where conditions are hot and dry, become mummified.

As the team of grave-cleaners go to work in Guatemala City, their manner hardly appears different to labourers on a building site or workers at a recycling centre.

Bags of broken corpses are tossed into heaps like piles of garbage and transported on forklift trucks with the clothes they were buried in still on their backs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 AM | Permalink

July 7, 2014

"London is one giant grave"

London and Its Dead

In her excellent and morbidly fascinating book Necropolis: London and Its Dead, Catharine Arnold describes in detail how parts of the London Underground were tunneled, blasted, picked, and drilled through a labyrinth of plague pits and cemeteries.

To no small extent, she makes clear, the subterranean presence of corpses can be found throughout the British capital. Dead bodies were basically buried everywhere, to the point that, as Arnold pithily states, "London is one giant grave." The city is saturated from below with the dead.

In one of my favorite examples of this from the book, Arnold explains how the London Hospital maintained its own burial ground from 1849 to 1854. Somewhat astonishingly, however, we learn that housing projects for the medical staff were then built over these old graveyards—and the coffins were not very far below the surface.

As Arnold describes it, this led to some rather unsafe ground conditions:

The remaining part of the burial ground became a garden for nurses and medical students, complete with tennis court, "where they are in the habit of capering about in their short times off-duty, and where it sometimes happens that the grass gives way beneath them—an ordinary occurrence when the subsoil is inhabited by coffins!"

In other words, these tennis-playing nurses "capering about" on their grass tennis courts would occasionally and literally fall through the surface of the earth only to find themselves standing in a maze of rotting coffins hidden just beneath the soil, an infernal honeycomb of badly tended graves like something out of Dante.
All of which finally brings us back to the real reason I started writing this post, which was to tell the story of how these corpses—the city absolutely littered with burial grounds and plague pits—came to influence the construction of London's Underground train system. It's a brief anecdote, but it's both ghoulish and interesting……

But to put that another way, the ground was so solidly packed with the interlocked skeletons of 17th-century victims of the Great Plague that the Tube's 19th-century excavation teams couldn't even hack their way through them all. The Tube thus had to swerve to the side along a subterranean detour in order to avoid this huge congested knot of skulls, ribs, legs, and arms tangled in the soil—an artificial geology made of people, caught in the throat of greater London.

London's Tube thus sits atop, cuts around, and tunnels through a citywide charnel ground of corpses, its very routes and station locations haunted by this earlier presence in the ground below.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink

April 14, 2014

Corpses in trenches in NYC

One million buried in mass graves on forbidden New York island..  A public cemetery closed to the public

Most New Yorkers don't even know it exists. But a million forgotten souls are buried in mass graves dug by convicts on a tiny, forbidden island east of the Bronx.

Since 1869, still-born babies, the homeless, the poor and the unclaimed have been stacked one upon the other, three coffins deep, on Hart Island.

Corpses are interred in great, anonymous trenches. There are no tombstones. Small white posts in the ground mark each 150 adult bodies. A thousand children and infants are buried together per grave.

It is one of the largest cemeteries in the United States. And the least visited.

The men doing the digging are convicts from Rikers Island, petty offenders tasked with carrying bodies to their final resting place.

Nearly 1,500 fresh corpses arrive each year, says visual artist Melinda Hunt, who heads the Hart Island Project, which campaigns to make the cemetery visible and accessible. The authorities say nearly a million people have been buried here since 1869.

It is forbidden to film and photograph the uninhabited, windswept island. Visits must be authorized by the Department of Corrections, which runs the island.
Records long inaccessible -

For years, records of who's been buried where have been patchy and negotiating access has proved challenging.  Some have been lost, others burnt. Families sometimes cannot even find out if their loved ones were buried by the city.

"You have a right to know where a person is. It's very important not to disappear people. It's not an acceptable thing to do in any culture," Hunt said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

March 14, 2014

The Sandbox Grave

Mother creates heartbreaking SANDBOX tribute on her infant son's grave so his toddler brother could spend time with him

 Sandbox Grave

When Ashlee Hammac's newborn son died just five days after being welcomed in the world, she decided to pay a special tribute to baby Ryan - by building a sandbox on his grave so that his older brother could come and spend time with him.
Last week, the 24-year-old mother from Lake City, Florida, shared a touching and heart-breaking photo on the Facebook page Sawyer's Heart depicting her 3-year-old son, Tucker, playing with toy cars in the blue sand by his brother's headstone.

Hammac's younger son, Ryan Michael Jolley, was born October 11, 2013, and passed away October 16 from Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephlopathy: a condition that occurs when there is not enough oxygen getting to the brain.

Together, the mother and son embraced the idea of turning the newborn’s black-granite gravesite into a play area filled with sand.
‘He always goes out there with me, and sits out there, and sings lullabies, and talks to him just like he was there,' Miss Hammac told People Magazine. 'So I wanted it to be special for him too. His favorite thing right now is trucks.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2014

Beautiful cemeteries

20 Beautiful Cemeteries That Are Absolutely To Die For

Mount Herzl, named for the founder of modern political Zionism, sits in Jerusalem as Israel's national cemetery. Landscape Architect Haim Giladi laid out the grounds, which house the burials of Israel's prime ministers, presidents and honorable military leaders.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:38 AM | Permalink

February 6, 2014

Charlemagne's bones


detail of the portrait of the Emperor Charlemagne by Albrecht Durer

Charlemagne's bones identified: 1,200-year-old remains in a German cathedral belong to 'Europe's father', claim scientists

He has been dead for 1,200 years – but only now have scientists finally identified the bones of Charlemagne.
After 26 years of research, German scientists are satisfied that bones held for centuries at Aachen Cathedral, Germany, are those of the king of the Franks, who is also known as the father of Europe.

A total of 94 bones and fragments were analysed from the cathedral and are believed to belong to the founder of the Holy Roman Empire.
Professor Frank Rühli, of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, who was among the scientists studying the remains, said: ‘Thanks to the results from 1988 up until today, we can say with great likelihood that we are dealing with the skeleton of Charlemagne.’

The team of researchers studied the dimensions of the thigh, shin and upper arm bones to get an idea of the man’s height and build – which match the descriptions of the emperor.  The man now confirmed to be Charlemagne, was six feet tall (1.84metres) weighed around 12stone 3lbs (78kg) and had a slim build.
One Medieval biographer, Einhard the Frank, wrote that Charlemagne walked with a limp in his later years, which the scientists now think could be true.  They found that the skeleton’s kneecap and heel bones had deposits that would indicate an injury of some sort.  But they didn’t find any new evidence to suggest that he died of pneumonia – or other clues about his later health – which would back up other accounts.

More on Charlemagne from the sidebar.

Charles the Great, King of the Franks, ruled a European empire from 768 based mainly around France, Germany and parts of Italy.  Called the 'Father of Europe' he united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire.

His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance - a period of cultural and intellectual activity within the Catholic Church. Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne's empire.  Although he could not write, he spoke Teutonic, Latin and Greek.

He was 6ft 4in - a monstrous height for the period, which has been confirmed by measurement of his skeleton.
Oddly, his father was known as Pepin the Short and was around 5ft tall.

Charlemagne's first campaign came at the age of 27, when the Pope sought his aid in repelling the Lombards of Italy. He conquered them in the field and took the crown of Lombardy as his own.

From his capital of Aachen in modern-day Germany, Charlemagne went on to fight 53 campaigns, most of which he led himself.  He defended a Christian Europe from Muslim Saracens and pagan Saxons, often beheading thousands in a single day.

He is thought to have died aged 72 from a fever, but study of the ancient bones has not confirmed this.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

February 1, 2014

On His Highway to Heaven

Ohio biker is buried in leathers astride his beloved 1967 Harley-Davidson in a huge transparent casket

The family of an Ohio biker has fulfilled his dying wish by burying him astride his beloved Harley-Davidson in a see-through casket.

Dressed in his leathers and sunglasses, and sitting on top of his 1967 Electra Glide cruiser, Billy Standley, who died on Sunday, was taken for one last ride. The body of the 82-year-old, who died of lung cancer, was visible through the transparent Plexiglas coffin that his bike has been placed in.

 Biker On-Harley Buried Transparent Casket

For years the Mechanicsburg man had told family and friends that he didn't just want to ride off to heaven, he wanted the world to see him do it in a big see-through box.

He started the funeral preparations himself, buying three large burial plots next to his wife, Lorna so the hole would be big enough to accommodate his unique casket.  His sons Pete and Roy fashioned a casket out of Plexiglas and reinfornced the bottom with wood and metal.mmTo ensure Mr Standley didn't become unseated on his final journey, embalmers prepared his body with a metal back brace and straps.

'We’ve done personalization … but nothing this extreme,' Tammy Vernon, who works at the funeral home, told the Dayton Daily News.  'He was the one who kept throwing this idea out there, to be buried on his bike. We were glad to assist him.'

The family man was pleased with his funeral plans and would show off the casket, which was stored for five years in a garage, to visitors.  'He was proud of it,' Roy Standley said.  While his family agreed that the procession to the cemetery, during which the body was on display, may be shocking, they wanted to honor their father's last wish.

'He'd done right by us all these years, and at least we could see he goes out the way he wanted to,' Pete Standley said. His daughter, Dorothy, added that he was 'a quirky man'.

Mr Standley, who used to work as a bareback rodeo rider, was be escorted to the ceremony by a procession of bikers. Some of the mourners at his graveside donned motorcycle jackets for the occasion as they watched the extra large coffin be lowered into its massive plot.

Anyone can be a pharaoh these days.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

January 30, 2014

'She is part of me, so here I am whole,'

Man who spent over 20 years holding vigil by his wife's grave EVERY day dies aged 97

When Rocky Abalsamo's wife died in 1993, part of him died too.  Out of sadness and longing, he would hold vigil by her grave site at St. Joseph Cemetery in West Roxbury all day, every day, rarely eating or drinking and weathering all temperatures and conditions.

Now, over 20 years after his beautiful Julia 'Julita' passed away, Rocky 'Roque' continues to sit next to his beloved, after being buried in the plot next to her.  Rocky died on Janaury 22 at Stonehedge Health Care Center in West Roxbury after several months of declining health, reports The Boston Globe.  He was 97.

 Rocky Abalsamo-Devoted-Griever
'She was pure love,' he said.  'Her beauty was a gift apart, a reward.'

They shared a first kiss on September 16, 1937 - a date Rocky - celebrated annually - and married the following April.  They had a daughter, Angela, and a son, Roque Jr.

Rocky and Julita had been married for 55 years when she died of complications after heart surgery in 1993 . Distraught, he began spending his days at St. Joseph Cemetery.
'She is part of me, so here I am whole,' he said previously.
'Being here makes me feel better. Not good, but better. I do it for Julita, and for myself.'

Each morning he would greet Julia - 'I am here!' - unfold his blue chair and unpack the belongings he would bring with him, such as photos and other tokens.

He rarely ate or drank, mostly out of respect but also so he does not need a bathroom, and would toast Julita with sparkling cider on special occasions, such as her birthday on December 20.

At night he would pray and sprinkle crumbs on the grave so that chipmunks would keep her company after he leaves.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:33 PM | Permalink

November 26, 2013

Mass grave on NYC Island

Nearly one million people are buried in mass graves off New York City on Hart Island.

It may be just a stone's throw away from the mass urban sprawl that is New York, but nobody lives there and just an abandoned prison and empty lunatic asylum remain as evidence that the island was ever inhabited.  New York's mysterious Hart Island is, however, home to up to a million graves - many of them poor and unidentified, others interred there because of unfortunate circumstances.

The city's authorities have been using the island, which is technically part of the Bronx district, as a city graveyard, burying bodies in plain pine boxes piled on top of one another and marked only with a number, since 1868.

The Department of Correction, which is in charge of the mass cemetery, estimates that there are between 750,000 and a million people buried on the island, which is visible on Google Maps but not included on the Subway line.  The last public ferry to the island completed its final journey in 1976.

In 2010, some 695 adults and 504 babies were buried there by prisoners from Riker's Island.  Adult bodies are stacked three high with each grave containing up to 165 bodies and hidden from the world by 36 inches of dirt.
 Hart Island Mass Graves  A picture taken in 1990 shows a large trench dug ready for hundreds of bodies to be buried. Pine boxes used as coffins can be seen at one end of the trench

A separate grave for stillborn babies and fetuses contains as many as 1,000 miniature boxes.  Among those buried there is the first child to die of Aids in New York - one of the few to be afforded an individual grave marked SC B1 1985 (standing for Special Child, Baby 1, and the year of death) - as well as famous writers and actors including Bobby Driscoll who played Peter Pan in the 1953 DIsney movie.

Driscoll died in 1968 and his body was found in a deserted tenement by two children playing. His body could not be identified and when it went unclaimed he was buried on Hart Island.  The following year his mother contacted Disney in the hope of reuniting Driscoll with his desparately ill father before he died.  But an NYPD fingerprint search located his body on Hart Island.  His name appears on his father's gravestone at a California cemetery, but his remains are still on Hart Island.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

November 16, 2013

Memorial alert

Memorial alert is the name of a new product designed to combat thefts of tombstones. 

South Africa cemeteries to microchip tombstones

Amid a rash of tombstone thefts from cemeteries in Johannesburg, a company will be offering relatives of the deceased a high-tech solution: microchips that can be inserted into the memorial that will sound an alarm and send a text message to their cell phones if it is disturbed.
Nearly 20 marble tombstones are stolen monthly from the city's 36 public cemeteries, despite security guards and perimeter sensors.
The city already allows microchips to be placed inside graves to help families locate their loved one's final resting places in the vast grassy spaces. Now, with thefts often carried out at night and the recycled marble or granite tombstones winding up in the hands of crooked stonemasons, authorities are taking technology a step further to foil those who take "graveyard shift" a little too literally.
"This is peace of mind for the family," said Buff. "Tombstones are the property of the owner which is the family member, and you'll find you cannot insure a tombstone or it's too expensive for many. By doing this, it is insured."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

November 14, 2013

Police, "Are you serious. This is a joke isn’t it,"

Woman visiting Brazilian cemetery is stunned when man who was buried alive starts waving his arms around in grave

The woman was at a cemetery in the suburb of Ferraz de Vasconcelos, Sao Paulo, when she heard faint noises then noticed the earth moving in a grave close by.

'I was terrified to see a man, who I thought was dead, trying to get out of the grave,' said the petrified woman, who asked not to be named.
'He had his head and hands out and was moving his arms around, trying to get out.'

The woman first ran away screaming, but returned and called the emergency services, who found the man half buried in a plot of earth.  She claimed that when she called police they did not believe her, and accused her of wasting their time and playing a joke.

'They kept questioning me asking: "Are you serious. This is a joke isn’t it,"' she said.

Eventually, unable to convince the authorities, she went to the cemetery office to plead with them to confirm with police that her discovery was real.

The man is now recuperating in the local hospital in Ferraz de Vasconcelos. A hospital source said he is 'coming back to life'. He will also be subjected to psychological tests.

Police believe the man, said to be a former city hall worker, was involved in a fight in another part of the city, where he was badly beaten by his attackers until he passed out and was taken to the cemetery by his assailants.

It is believed they then threw him into a empty grave which was partly filled with earth.

When the victim regained consciousness, he began making groaning noises which alerted the woman who found him.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:45 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2013

City cemetery refuses to engrave the name of Jesus on a headstone

City-Owned Cemetery Refuses to Engrave 'Jesus' on Preacher's Wife's Headstone

The family of a Colorado preacher’s wife is still fuming after the director of the city-owned cemetery refused to engrave her final resting place with the name ‘Jesus’ because it might offend people. The city eventually reversed course under public pressure.

“We were in disbelief,” said Stacy Adams, the daughter-in-law of Linda Baker. “Who tries to censor Jesus from a cemetery?”
The cemetery director …refused..He said, ‘What if somebody wanted to put a swastika?”
She said city officials kept telling them that people would be offended by the name of Christ.

“We weren’t asking for a six-foot neon sign,” she said. “We did not want to put a cross on everyone’s tombstone. It’s a six-inch fish with the name ‘Jesus ‘ on it.”
Adams tells me the family was incredibly distraught and disturbed by the incident.

“As an American and as a Christian, we have this thing called freedom of speech, freedom of expression,” she said. “We weren’t trying to stop anybody from putting anything up. We just wanted the same freedom others have.”

I find it astonishing that the cemetery director would equate the name of Jesus whom Christians  believe was the Son of God with a swastika. 

Over 77% of the American population identifies as Christian according to a Gallup poll in 2012. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:17 AM | Permalink

October 21, 2013

Should a cemetery allow a SpongeBob SquarePants tombstone?

Family at war with cemetery over 6ft 7,000lb SpongeBob SquarePants headstones they had made for soldier daughter 'murdered by her boyfriend' on Valentine's Day

 Spongebob Tombstone

The family of a woman murdered on Valentine’s Day by her boyfriend say they have been caused additional pain and suffering after being told that the SpongeBob SquarePants headstones that they paid $26,000 to have built are ‘inappropriate’ for the Cincinnati cemetery where their daughter is buried.

Sgt. Kimberly Walker, 28, was found dead in a Colorado Springs, Colo., hotel room on Valentine’s Day and her boyfriend, also a soldier, has been charged with first-degree murder.  To stand as a tribute to their lost loved one, the Walker family decided it would be fitting to erect two 7,000-pound SpongeBob SquarePants monuments at Walker’s graveside in the historic Spring Grove Cemetery.
According to Deborah Walker, Kimberly’s mother, her daughter loved everything to do with the cartoon character and had countless SpongeBob-branded items including shower curtains.
‘SpongeBob went in her casket before we laid her in the ground,’ she told
After receiving approval from a cemetery employee in March, the family decided on the design for the SpongeBob monuments and paid 10 percent of the price for the two $13,000 each statues upfront.
The Walkers also purchased six plots together at the cemetery to provide the required space to erect them.
Spring Grove has accepted responsibility for the misunderstanding and promised to work with the family to design at alternative which they hope will be more in keeping with the historic cemetery.

‘Spring Grove is deeply sorry for the issues involving the monument the Walker family recently purchased. Although the family chose a design with the guidance of a Spring Grove employee, unfortunately the monument did not fit within Spring Grove Cemetery guidelines,’ President and CEO Gary Freytag told WLWT in a written statement.

As an historic cemetery, we must constantly balance the needs of families who have just suffered a loss with the thousands of families who have entrusted us in the past.

I agree with the cemetery

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:28 PM | Permalink

September 4, 2013

The hanging coffins of Sichuan

Riddle of the hanging coffins of Sichuan: The mysterious 400-year-old wooden tombs suspended on a Chinese cliff face

But these bizarre hanging coffins have baffled people for centuries in southern China.The tombs - attached to mountain cliffs in Gongxian, Sichuan province - were left behind by the Bo people, believed to have died out 400 years ago.

Each coffin is made from a hollowed out single tree trunk and was originally protected by a bronze cover.

 Hanging-Coffins Sichuan

'Some of the tombs are nearly 3,000 years old and the most recent date back to about 1500. Nobody really knows why they dealt with their dead in this way,' explained one local expert.

'It is believed that they thought the gods would be able to reach them more easily like that.

'People say that the hanging coffins prevented bodies from being taken by animals and also blessed the soul for all eternity.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

August 8, 2013

Cowboy Tombstone

This is what Russell J, Larsen had inscribed on his headstone in Lorgan, Utah, according to Snopes.

 Real Cowboy Tombstone

Despite what you may have heard, the following is NOT inscribed on his tombstone though it's pretty funny.


1. It's important to have a woman who helps at home, cooks from time to time, cleans up, and has a job.

2. It's important to have a woman who can make you laugh.

3. It's important to have a woman who you can trust, and doesn't lie to you.

4. It's important to have a woman who likes to be with you.

5. It's very, very important that these four women do not know each other or you could end up dead like me.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 PM | Permalink

Mummy, there's a mummy in grandma's attic"

Mummy there's a mummy in grandma's attic! Boy discovers 'Egyptian body' inside an old wooden chest

A 10-year-old German boy has discovered what appears to be an Egyptian mummy in a wooden chest in his grandmother's attic.  Alexander Kettler found the 'mummy' inside a sarcophagus in a dark corner of the attic in Diepholz, northern Germany, after it had lain undisturbed for at least four decades.

The boy's father, Lutz Wolfgang Kettler, now intends to take the box, covered in hieroglyphics, to Berlin so that experts can ascertain whether it is genuine.

 Mummy In The Attic

As well as the 'mummy', the box also contained a death mask and a canopic jar used by ancient Egyptians to store removed organs.

Mr Ketller believes that the sarcophagus and jar are fake but says that there is every chance that the mummy itself is real.  He said: 'You just don't get the feeling that's something you could buy at a shop around the corner.'

Mr Kettler's father travelled to north Africa in the 1950s and had a mysterious chest shipped back to Germany.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:25 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2013

Sacrificed Incan children found deep frozen 500 years later. They were drugged with beer and cocaine.

Drugged with beer and cocaine and left to freeze to death, 500-year-old mummies of sacrificed Inca children reveal their secrets

Her body is so perfectly  preserved that it is hard to believe this girl died more than 500 years ago. But what is even more remarkable is that scientists today have been able to learn the secrets of her death – by analyzing her hair.

The 13-year-old Incan girl was heavily dosed with alcohol and  coca leaves, which form the basis of cocaine, before being left to die of exposure high in the Andes as a sacrifice.

 13-Year-Old Incan Princess 500 Years Old

Known as the Ice Maiden, she is one of three children found in stone tombs on a mountain in Argentina.

The girl, the eldest of the three, was found cross-legged, with her head slumped forward and her hands resting in her lap.

She wore a feather headdress over her tightly braided hair and there were coca leaves between her teeth and balled up behind her cheek.

The children were discovered in 1999.  They are believed to have been sacrificed in a ceremony called capacocha, a ritual thought to have been used to instill fear and help control members of the rapidly expanding Inca empire.

Analysis  of the children’s hair, which still contains a chemical fingerprint of their diet, shows that all three were plied with drugs and alcohol to subdue them in the months before they died.  Amounts were particularly high in the 13-year-old girl, perhaps because she showed more resistance.

There is no evidence that the girl, known as the Llullaillaco Maiden  after the mountain in northwest Argentina, was brutally killed.  Instead, it is thought she died of exposure. Priests would have waited for her to fall unconscious before placing her in a burial chamber.

Dr Andrew Wilson, from the University of Bradford, said: ‘We think it likely that the Maiden was selected for sacrifice 12 months before her death, after which her treatment changed, corresponding to the sharp rise in coca consumption.

‘She was then probably involved in a series of rituals, involving consumption of coca and alcohol in the build up to her sacrifice.‘Both substances were controlled, were considered elite products.

‘The fact that in her final weeks the maiden shows consistently higher levels of coca and alcohol use compared to the younger children suggests there was a greater need to sedate her in the final weeks of life.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

July 3, 2013

Secrets of Ancient Graves

Scientists discover the oldest grave flowers from 14,000 years ago - when the dead were buried with mint and sage

Humans have been decorating graves with flowers for almost 14,000 years, say archeologists.

The first evidence the tradition of floral tributes has been dug up in Israel where sage, mint and other plants were used in ceremonial burials.
In modern times the tradition is used as a sign of respect or remembrance, but it is believed to have started thousands of years ago to disguise the stench of the rotting corpse.  It was also hoped the scent of the plants would stop animals being attracted to the grave to dig up the body.

 Sage Mint

The ancient Romans often laid out the ground of the tomb as a garden so the spirit could enjoy itself as it wandered.
The latest discovery was unearthed at the bottom of 13,700 to 11,700 year-old graves at a scenic prehistoric burial spot known as Raqefet Cave overlooking the Mediterranean coast.

First unlooted Wari royal tomb found in Peru

A team of Polish and Peruvian archaeologists have discovered a 1,200-year-old royal mausoleum from Peru’s Wari civilization which has never been looted.
The team found row after row of bodies wrapped in decaying traditional textiles made from llama wool and posed in a seated position. In three small adjacent chambers they discovered the human remains of three Wari queens buried with their valuables. When Giersz from the University of Warsaw saw the glint of gold in the tomb, he realized they would have to keep the discovery secret for the duration of the excavation or the place would be picked clean by human vultures.

 New-Untouched-Royal-Tomb-Peru-Gold 68843 600X450
Images of winged, supernatural beings adorn a pair of heavy gold-and-silver ear ornaments that a high-ranking Wari woman wore to her grave in the newly discovered mausoleum at El Castillo de Huarmey in Peru.  National Geographic: Peru's Rare, Unlooted Royal Tomb

Somehow they managed to keep the news from leaking for months as they unearthed more than a thousand artifacts. They found silver and gold jewelry, semi-precious stone beads, bronze ritual axes, silver bowls, knives, richly decorated ceramics, an alabaster drinking cup which is the only one of its kind ever found at an ancient Andean site, carved wooden artifacts that survived in exceptional condition and my personal favorite, gold weaving tools kept in a cane box. Royal women couldn’t be expected to weave cloth with just regular tools, now could they? No, they wove with gold tools.
The Wari civilization flourished in much of today’s Peru between 600 and 1100 A.D. Their territory covered almost the entire length of modern Peru and reached more than halfway inland. Their capital city Huari had a population of 40,000 at a time when Paris had a population of 25,000.

 New-Untouched-Royal-Tomb-Peru-Clay-Pot 68837 600X450-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:19 AM | Permalink

May 17, 2013

Clothespin gravestone

Giant Clothespin Gravestone


The clothespin gravestone marked the grave of W. Jack Crowell, who owned the National Clothespin Company, the last wooden clothespin manufacturer in the United States (today it produces plastic clothespins and barrettes). Originally, Jack wanted a giant clothespin with real spring so children could teeter on it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 AM | Permalink

May 10, 2013

No F-words on headstones

Late rapper's family denied headstone inscribed with song lyric because it included the F-word

Sonny ‘Uno’ Santiago, 23, was a rapper who died in a car crash in February. Commissioners at Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn this week unanimously rejected his family's request to inscribe his gravestone with a song verse that included a profanity.

The panel became aware of the language when the company inscribing the 3-foot tall memorial submitted drawings to commissioners.

The inscription read: 'You gonna remember the damn name, I give a f*** if I die with no damn friends, I got my fam by my side and that’s until the end.’

Pine Grove Cemetery regulations posted online state that ‘the cemetery office must approve all inscription work on monuments.’

City officials contacted the family about the inscription and they agreed to have the gravestone inscribed with a different, profanity-free verse from a song Santiago wrote.

Good for them.  I hope all other cemeteries take not of the regulations they should impose on themselves.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 PM | Permalink

January 15, 2013

Dressed to kill

 Tombstones Russian Gangsters

Tombstones of Russian gangsters

They used to spend their days collecting protection money, kneecapping those who would not pay up and planting explosives in the cars of their rivals.

But now the only reminders of the gangsters that made up the Russian mobs in the 1990s are their tombstones with gaudy sketches of them etched into the granite. 

The men, who are casualties of the Russian business world and were relatively young when they were killed, are sculpted standing in designer suits and leather jackets. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:42 AM | Permalink

Wanted: Mausoleum w/Wi-Fi, Cable, River Vu

Wanted: Mausoleum w/Wi-Fi, Cable, River Vu

I got an advertisement in the mail the other day for a fancy marble mausoleum being built in Jersey.

“You’ve worked hard your whole life,” it read. “Now, don’t you want to reward yourself with the very best?”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:16 AM | Permalink

January 9, 2013

Landslide under 'Dracula Church' in Whitby sends human bones raining down on town below

Famous 'Dracula Church' under threat from landslide which has destroyed graveyard and sent human bones raining down on to town below

A historic church and graveyard which features in Bram Stoker's Gothic novel Dracula is faced with a horror story of its own.
Human bones uncovered after a landslide last month have been washed down the cliff St Mary's Church stands on in Whitby after heavy rainfall.

The human remains are then being collected at the bottom of the cliff face and re-buried.
St Mary's Reverend Canon David Smith said: 'The cemetery has been a closed for more than a century so if any graves are exposed it's only bones.
Meanwhile residents and business owners are terrified the cliff will be hit with more rainfall.
The landslide has been blamed on a drainage pipe which broke when the cliff began to crumble. Heavy rainfall saturated the soil and lead to the mudslide.
The landslide comes after five houses in Aelfelda Terrace, Whitby, were demolished last month after flooding washed the steep bank beneath them away.

 Dracula Church

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 AM | Permalink

December 10, 2012

Wave of grave robberies in Paris

Paris hit by wave of street muggings and grave robberies

Austerity-struck Paris has been hit by a wave of street muggings and grave robberies with thieves prepared to exhume bodies to steal gold and jewelry.

Last week, police in the French capital arrested three people as part of a widening grave robbery investigation.

There was further public outrage after two masked intruders shot dead a 52-year old precious metal worker when he tried to stop them stealing gold from his foundry in the chic central Parisian district of Le Marais.

Police said sky-high market prices for precious metals are acting as a magnet for thieves with scant regard for the living or the dead.
In Pantin cemetery, in the north of Paris, dozens of bodies have recently been dug up, with gold teeth and jewelry stolen from them.

Police sources said the three men seized last week were gravediggers employed by the city's cemeteries.

Last month, four other men – three from the same Pantin cemetery – were arrested and placed under investigation for aggravated theft, grave robbery and violating the integrity of a corpse.

Last month, four other men – three from the same Pantin cemetery – were arrested and placed under investigation for aggravated theft, grave robbery and violating the integrity of a corpse.

According to a source close to the investigation, the men removed personal belongings from corpses in the freshest graves, opening them in the dead of night.b  Two of the men were caught wearing miner's helmets and gloves. Their boots were covered in fresh earth.

One of the suspects was found to be carrying 10 gold teeth.

After the initial arrests, the mayor of Paris, Bernard Delanoe, expressed his outrage and ordered the city authorities to step up surveillance of cemeteries.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2012

The Queen's Corgi graveyard

Tiny headstones of Royal pets that spent years as ''loyal companions' pictured in quiet corner of Sandringham

The Queen is known to be inseparable from her beloved Corgis.  Now poignant pictures have emerged of the graves of royal pets from throughout the generations.  The little-known plot is hidden away in a quiet corner of the 20,000-acre Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

It was created by Queen Victoria after the death of her Collie, Noble, in 1887, and revived in 1959 when Elizabeth II wanted somewhere to bury her first Corgi, Susan.


 Corgi Tombstones Sandy Sugar
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 PM | Permalink

July 25, 2012

The 'Hardy Tree'

-Hardy Tree St Pancras London

Before he became a famous novelist, Thomas Hardy worked at an  architectural firm in London.

The Hardy Tree: an Earl Work of a Great Novelist

It was during this time that an older part of St Pancras Churchyard was designated for almost total obliteration in order to make way for a new railway line. The Bishop of London gave the contract for this work to Blomfield who passed responsibility on to his young student, Hardy. Yet these objects in the way of progress could not be cleared like slums. Even progress occasionally must respect what came before and the removal and relocation of so many middle class graves would almost certainly have caused an uproar if it was not done properly.

The coffins were removed from the site with circumspection and care and were reburied elsewhere (the Victorian English had a horror of cremation). There was no need to move the headstones. Yet although the graves were old and unvisited it would not have been respectful to simply dump the headstones in to the Thames.

The process would have taken a great deal of time and young Hardy, who was 25 when he was given this commission would have spent the best part of a year overseeing the work. Perhaps his experiences in St Pancras church yard later informed some of the bleaker passages in his novels.

Some of the headstones were placed in a circular pattern around a young ash tree in the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church, far enough away from the site of the railway for them never to have to be disturbed again. Over the decades the tree has, inevitably grown and parts of the headstones nearest the tree have disappeared in to its growth.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

June 8, 2012

San Francisco beach lined with tombstones to prevent erosion

San Francisco beach lined with 100-year-old tombstones of those whose families were too poor to pay for graves to be moved to new cemetery

A woman walking along a San Francisco beach found an eerie surprise when she realized that one of the rocks along the shoreline was in fact a tombstone.

Teresa Trego was not the first person to spot old tombstones next to the small pebbles along Ocean Beach.

 Tombstone Sfran Beach

While there are no longer bodies at the site, it once was used as a cemetery and the tombstones were left to help stave off erosion in the early 1900s.

It's kind of poignant but it's also kind of what San Francisco's all about: we're a small town, we reuse everything,' Ms Trego said.

In the late 1800s, people in the burgeoning city of San Francisco set up a cemetery at Laurel Hill,  which was then considered far out from the beginnings of the city. San Francisco Bay reports that as the urban area grew, however, the city and the families of the deceased moved their bodies further inland to Colma, but left the tombstones in place.

'Golden Gate was a cemetery where people weren't necessarily wealthy, and so those people and their descendants were less likely to have the means to move the gravestones back down to the new graves,' one park official told Fox News.

I doubt that explanation.  If families had the means to excavate the bodies, they would take the tombstones as well.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:23 PM | Permalink

April 28, 2012

Proposed Virginia law offers a tax break to residents buried in space

Virginia law would offer tax breaks to residents buried in space

Looking for a really awesome way to lower your taxes? Virginia residents may want to consider having their cremated remains blasted into space. The state is considering a law that would give folks who want to mingle their ashes with the debris of space up to $2500 a year in deductions, with an $8000 cap.

If the measure passes, the final pitstop for folks who take advantage of the tax break will be the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The purpose of the law is to increase revenue for the spaceport, which is looking to expand in response to the cancellation of NASA's space shuttle program.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 PM | Permalink

February 14, 2012

In situ

German soldiers preserved in World War I shelter discovered after nearly 100 years

Twenty-one German soldiers entombed in a perfectly preserved World War One shelter have been discovered 94 years after they were killed.

The men were part of a larger group of 34 who were buried alive when an Allied shell exploded above the tunnel in 1918 causing it to cave in.

Thirteen bodies were recovered from the underground shelter but the remaining men had to be left under a mountain of mud as it was too dangerous to retrieve them.

Nearly a century later French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front during excavation work for a road building project.

Many of the skeletal remains were found in the same positions the men had been in at the time of the collapse, prompting experts to liken the scene to Pompeii.

A number of the soldiers were discovered sitting upright on a bench, one was lying in his bed and another was in the foetal position having been thrown down a flight of stairs.

As well as the bodies, poignant personal effects such as boots, helmets, weapons, wine bottles, spectacles, wallets, pipes, cigarette cases and pocket books were also found.

Even the skeleton of a goat was found, assumed to be a source of fresh milk for the soldiers.

Archaeologists believe the items were so well preserved because hardly any air, water or lights had penetrated the trench.

The 300ft long tunnel was located 18ft beneath the surface near the small town of Carspach in the Alsace region in France.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:45 PM | Permalink

November 7, 2011

Final Embrace

 Skeltons Holding Hands

Together forever...lovers holding hands for 1500 years discovered in Rome grave

Laid out side by side and holding hands, these 1,500-year-old male and female skeletons are surely a sign of eternal love if ever there was one.

The lovers were probably even ‘looking into each other’s eyes’ when they were buried in the 5th century, during the final days of the Roman Empire.

The extraordinary discovery was made by archaeologists excavating an Ancient Roman palace in the Italian town of Mutina, known today as Modena.

Anthropologist Vania Milani said:  ‘It was a very touching and beautiful sight to see. The woman’s head is turned towards the man and they were holding each other’s hands.  I suspect the head of the man was also turned towards the woman at the time of burial and that it was probably resting on a cushion which then decomposed over time and caused it to roll away.  They would have been looking into each other’s eyes at the time of burial in a sign of eternal love.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

November 2, 2011

Where's Waldo?

Today is All Souls Day, the day when we pray for the dead.      Looking to visit a grave or a cemetery?

Findagrave is your resource that holds some 70 million grave records.    With 8-10 million page views a day, it started as a joke.

When Jim Tipton saw a massive tombstone in a Gainesville, Fl., cemetery that was engraved with the name Waldo, he snapped a photo, developed the film and coded a rudimentary HTML website, which he titled "I Found Him." The year was 1995.


From that droll joke, which was seen by a few hundred early web adopters, grew, easily the world's most extensive and trafficked online database of graves. On any given day serves 8-10 million page views. The crowd-sourced knowledge base even tracks down the final resting places of individuals. Ask the site’s users to locate where dead loved ones lie and, according to Tipton, 80 percent of the time you'll have an answer.

"It's something that happened to me rather than something I did," Tipton told me over the phone a few weeks ago, referring to the success of a site he started as a lark.

That meager collection snowballed into database that became huge. "The power of the crowd really energized the site," he said. People whom Tipton affectionately calls the black sheep, death obsessed, cemetery walkers came out of nowhere and added grave after grave. Today, the site's users add grave records at three times the U.S. death rate. For the past 16 years, he's just been trying to keep up with the flood.
Find a Grave lets the living connect with the past. Long-lost lovers, army buddies, childhood friends, those ghosts we carry with us can be found by a simple query and the efforts of an army of cemetery walkers sharing their solitary pursuit through Find A Grave.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink