by Loren Rhoads
September 1, 2012
Cremation is an ancient way of honoring the dead. Aborigines in Australia cremated their loved ones 20,000 years ago. Bronze Age Scandinavians, Iron Age Palestinians, as well as the Babylonians and Greeks practiced cremation.
The Romans burned their dead on pyres outside of their cities. The ashes were then gathered into urns and enshrined in family tombs that lined the roads in and out of all Roman cities. The most famous of these tombs lined the Appian Way. Perfectly preserved Roman tombs were discovered -- with urns of ashes still in place -- in Pompeii and under the Basilica of St. Sebastian, among other archaeological sites. The rediscovery of Pompeii in the 1700s led to a widespread fashion in Western cemeteries of decorating headstones - and later, sculptural monuments - with stone urns swathed in stone shrouds. Clearly, these monuments harken back to historical cremations. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though.
Historians use divining rods to find forgotten cemeteries
By Tony Gonzalez, The Tennessean
Jan 4, 2012
EAGLEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — John Lodl often heard Rutherford County’s old-timers talk of the divining rods, swearing by their eerie movements as proof positive of bodies buried below.
No headstone, no matter, they said. In the hands of the right person, the wavering of the rods could say more about a cemetery than the aged records that Lodl, bearded and bespectacled but youthful at 37, oversees in the local archives.
One day last winter, Lodl went from skeptical to startled.
In a secluded cemetery in Eagleville, he watched a woman balance a pair of plain old coat hangers on her fingers and walk the field.
“Sure enough, when you cross over a grave, those things cross,” Lodl said. “I can’t explain it. But it works.”
He’s not the only county staffer believing.
How to be Safe in the Cemetery
Earlier this month I explored the historic cemeteries of Pescadero. The grass was ankle-high on the Protestant side, but over my knees on the Catholic side. Holes the size of juice glasses riddled the ground, but I never saw a mouse or gopher poke his head out.
Where there is prey, however, there will be predators. I kept an eye open for snakes. When I could, I walked on the graves’ curbs and watched my feet in the grass.
I’d nearly finished my exploration and was headed cross-country down the grassy slope when something caught my eye. In the grass lay the longest snakeskin I’ve ever seen shed in the wild. I should have thrown my notebook down for scale when I took the photo. Trust me, this skin was as long as my leg.