Iroquois: (New York, United States) Bodies were buried in shallow graves and then later exhumed. The bones were preserved and brought by relatives to a central burial following a mourning feast. The bodies were accompanied by presents for the spirits.
Navajo: (Southwest United States) Like the pygmies, fear led them to destroy the house of the dead person, and then relatives burned the body. On their way back home, they were careful to take a circuitous route that prevented the spirit from following them and stood in smoke to purify themselves.
Egypt: A lot is known about Egyptian burial, thanks to the attractiveness of the pyramids that served as tombs for their kings. The bodies were treated with spices, herbs and chemicals so that they became mummies rather than decomposing. The corpses were then placed in cotton cloth wrappings and put inside of a wooden case that was put inside of another case that was decorated with details of their life and a mask of their face. This was then placed in a coffin that was put in a sarcophagus. However, the bodies of poor people were treated less elaborately, but on the other hand cats, sacred animals, were mummified. The powder of mummies was sold in the Middle Ages by apothecaries. Mummies were also produced in Peru and Mexico.
Inca: (Andes) The Inca also mummified their dead, using ice, leading to a great deal of investigation. Priests would have surrounded the body in symbolic objects. The Inca also partook of human sacrifice.
Pygmies: (African Congo) The Pygmies appear to be sort of uncomfortable with death. When a person dies, they pull down his hut on top of him, and move their camp while relatives cry. Then the dead person is never mentioned again.
India: Here bodies are cremated on a pile of logs at a ghat, a flat area near the riverbank and temple. Ashes are thrown in the river, often the sacred Ganges.
Maoris: (New Zealand) The Maoris have an elaborate ritual. When people are dying they are placed in huts which are later burned. The corpse is sat up and dressed in nice clothes to be viewed by the public, and the mourners wear wear wreathes of green leaves, cry out and cut themselves with knvies. They chant praises and then have a feast where they give the dead's relatives gifts. After a few years, the bones are cleaned, covered in red earth and put in a special cave.
Chukchee: (Nothern Siberia, Russia) A three day silent watch was kept to insure the soul then departs. The dead were removed from their huts via special holes cut in the side and then immediately sewn to prevent the spirit from returning and bothering them. The bodies were burned or just taken to a seculded spot.
Muslim: (esp. Middle East) This religion has a very clear set of protocols for dealing with the deceased. The body must be placed on its sides and washed with warm water and soap, generally by a member of the same sex, with the final washing having scented water. There must be an odd number of washings (a trend against odd numbers is also visible in the Hindu faith), some of the stomach's must be pushed out, and the teeth and nose must be cleaned on the outside as a form of ablution (spiritual cleansing). Then the body is dried, perfumed, and wrapped in white cloth. Burial prayers are then said facing Mecca before a silent procession takes the corpse to its burial, where everyone shares in filling the grave with soil and a second pit with bricks while saying additional prayers.
Mexico: In Mexico, the dead are commemorated in a special Days of the Dead(día de los muertos) celebration on the first and second of November. Offerings are made to the deceased, and survivors visit grave sites, sitting on them in a celebration of life. Others set up altars at homes, decorating them in flowers. Places are set at the table for dead loved ones, and special pumpkin bread and bread of the dead (pan de muerto) is cooked. The country fills with bones and skulls, ranging from candy to skeletons dressed for specific professions. There's a joke about the event that tells of two people visiting a cemetery, one putting flowers by a grave and the other putting food near one. "When is your dead one going to come up to eat the food?" asks the first person. "When yours comes up to smell the flowers," replies the second.
The country's previous inhabitants, the Aztecs, also had interesting rituals. A priest would deliver a formalized speech over the newly dead person, following a ritual to ease their path to the next level of existence. Water was trickled onto the head as during a baptism, and words of mourning pronounced. Papers were laid on the corpse which were intended to aid the person to pass through the hazardous journey they faced.
Australia: The Aboriginals of Australia left dead bodies in trees.
Solomon Islands: In the Solomon Islands the dead were laid out on a reef for the sharks to eat. At a different point in their history, they stored skulls in fish-shaped containers.
Intuit: (Alaska) Some Inuits covered the corpse with a small igloo. Because of the cold body would remain forever, unless it was eaten by polar bears.
Parsees: (India) The Parsees of Bombay used to leave their dead on top of towers to be eaten by vultures.
Tibet: Tibetan views, in synch with other Bhuddist views in Asia, on death are most cogently expressed in The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Essentially, they feel that death must be confronted to truly achieve spiritual progress. In fact, knowledge of the steps occurring at the time of death is acquired through study, in the hopes that the confrontation will be so directed toward virtuous thoughts to allow enlightment, the achievement of Bhudda status rather than continuing the cycle of rebirth. Meditation occurs on the topic of death, event. Relatives present at the time of death attempt not to distract from this confrontation, and a lama may be present to offer advice and read sacred texts, helping the living as well as the dying. Tibetans reportedly even hacked up their dead for bird food because they had no respect for the body.
Jamaica: Although practices have changed, they still involve celebrating nine night, which is a celebration to support the relatives of the dead and provide for the body's safe journey to the next part of life. It is held in a veranda or a bamboo and coconut tent next to a house. Fried fish and, cake and bread sits on a central table and is left until midnight, so that the spirit of the dead can drop by for a snack. The ceremony also involves dancing, extensive singing and 100-proof rum. It ends nine nights after the death, though additional singing must occur 40 nights later, when supposedly the soul has ceased roaming and will no longer pester the living. Journey cakes ("johnnycakes") are also laid with corpses, and often obedah or vodoo ceremonies will occur to help put souls to rest. Previously, sexual images often were present on tombstones, and burial occured near homes. Autopsies were rare - bodies were preserved with ice, weights, and cotton until burial three days later, followign a wake. Funerals often feature professional singers and processions.
Europe: European rituals, transmitted to the New World, began as early as Greco-Roman times. It includes the washing of bodies and wrapping them in cloths called shrouds. The bodies were then put inside six-sided, wedge-shaped coffins for burial. Sometimes the bodies were dressed up.
America: The contemporary method of dealing with the deceased popular in other countries as well involves a minister being present at the time of death. Doctors will complete a death certificate, though sometimes coroners are needed to investigate deaths or act in lieu of a physician. A funeral director (or undertaker) is called then to take the body to a funeral home and arrange for burial. Often the body is embalmed, where chemicals are flushed through blood vessels with about a gallon remaining to help preserve the tissue as well as make the body appear better with pink coloring. Cosmetics are also used to make the body more lifelike and brighter. Caskets are used in place of coffins, with the difference being that caskets are simple rectangles. They range from simple to elaborate, wood or metal, and they have an inner lining. At a wake, the body is placed on display. Funerals entail prayer, praise of the dead person. The body is then carried to the hearse by pallbearers and bury the casket in the cemetery. Other times, the casket may be placed inside of a burial vault. Others may opt for cremation.