Variations on burying our dead

I am fascinated by the variation in what different groups of people have done with their dead over the years. Generally, in the U.S. we think of burying our dead or cremating them. I started thinking about this again because of an article I read from the Washington Post, which closed with the idea that perhaps the earliest humans in Europe didn’t bury their dead (the Neanderthals did, however).

So, if they didn’t bury their dead, what did they do with the dead?

I’ve heard of a group in the mountains of Tibet that leave corpses on the mountainside. The carrion birds pick apart the bodies. Do they help carry them to heaven? I don’t know the cultural intention.

Also, I read in a book by a a Native American author that some tribes in the Pacific Northwest hoisted the dead onto platforms up in the trees.

I thought I also saw a reference to that in the movie, “The Last of the Mohicans.” Hiding underneath the dead saved the protagonist and the Europeans he was protecting from a war party. The war party wouldn’t approach the sacred resting place of the dead.

Maybe there’s an essay waiting to be written here.

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