What Does Entombment Mean? And How Is It Different Than Burial?

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When it comes to death, most of us think about what will happen to our bodies first. From traditional, to eco-friendly, and eclectic, there are many burial options when it comes to your final disposition. 

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Cultures around the world bury bodies in unique ways. In Tibet, vultures eat the deceased, and in Africa, the Igbo tribe celebrates with multiple burials. In America, a below-ground burial is the common standard. 

But did you know there are other options? An entombment is one special alternative. In this guide, we’ll explain what an entombment is, how it happens, and why it might be a good addition to your end-of-life plans.

Entombment Defined

Unlike burials in the ground, entombments are above-ground burials. The body or cremated remains are put inside of a crypt and then sealed. Crypts are made of marble or granite. They can house the remains of one or multiple persons. 

Then, the remains are sealed inside of a mausoleum or sarcophagus. Entombment is a less common burial choice. It’s less affordable than cremation and rarer to find. 

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Entombment Origins 

Before exploring the types of entombment, let’s take a look at its origins. Entombing bodies dates back to 15th century France. The practice later became popular in other countries like Belgium and Germany. Later, it spread to the rest of Europe and the world. 

Various works of art represent entombment, making it a special type of burial choice. The Entombment of Christ by Michaelangelo represents entombment as a fundamental choice for Christian and Catholic funerals. The painting shows the placement of Jesus Christ in a garden tomb as his final resting place. 

Famous entombments provide clues as to where entombment came from. The Taj Mahal in India is a world-famous entombment site. It’s a white marble mausoleum built for emperor Shah Jaha’s wife. Today, it’s a bucket list favorite for people to visit.

While most of us don’t have the capability to plan for a palace to house our remains, there are many other entombment options available. 

Types of Entombment 

When the deceased is entombed, their remains are placed into a special container and then into a large building called a mausoleum. Once you decide that entombment is right for your family, you’ll have to choose their final resting place and crypt. Let’s take a look at some popular options. 

Before choosing a final home for your loved one, you’ll decide what type of unit their remains will be enclosed in. The most popular choice is a crypt.

A crypt is a compartment that holds your loved one’s casket. You may choose a single or double crypt. Double crypts house two caskets side by side, and they are a thoughtful option for spouses or close family members. 

As mentioned before, originally, mausoleums were elaborate and expensive structures that housed royalty and the wealthy. After the above-ground burial became mainstream, these structures became affordable and accessible to everyone. 

Today, there are different types to choose from. If you prefer to visit your loved one frequently, then a mausoleum owned by a cemetery or graveyard may be a good choice. Vestibule mausoleums are different. They are usually privately owned and intimate. 

If your loved one chooses cremation instead of a casket burial, you can also choose entombment. A columbarium is similar to a mausoleum, but instead of skeletal remains, it houses ashes. You can place your loved ones remains into an urn in the columbarium wall. It can be a cost-effective way to honor ancient entombment traditions. 

Entombment vs. Burial: What’s the Difference?

There are two traditions choices for yours or your loved one’s final resting place: in the ground or above ground. Let’s take a look at how they differ and factors you should consider before choosing. 

Burials: what you should know 

A traditional burial is known as internment. A burial places your loved one into a memorial space in the ground. You might be wondering why do we bury the dead? It’s an ancient practice that dates back to over 100,00 years ago and remains popular today. 

Usually, people don’t buy the burial space; instead, families rent space from a church or other place of worship. You’ll need to budget for a casket to hold the body, a vault for the casket, and a memorial marker to identify your loved one.

In the ground, burials may be a good option for families that want to follow tradition. While they are easily accessible, they can be expensive. Some families choose natural burials to avoid costs. They may choose to bury loved ones at home or opt for burial without a casket.

While burials are flexible, there are some environmental challenges you should consider. Often, manufacturers use chemicals that leach into the soil, creating an unsafe environment. Formaldehyde, the key ingredient in embalming fluid, is a carcinogenic substance that spreads in the air and soil.

Entombment: what you should know 

If you feel like an in-ground burial isn’t a good option, entombment may be a better choice. Above-ground burials offer cleanliness, convenience, and space that traditional burials don’t.

If you plan to visit your loved one’s grave often, mausoleums offer year-round convenience. They are warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

If your loved one died in the colder months, they wouldn’t be able to have a below-ground burial. Instead, your loved one’s remains are stored until the spring when the ground thaws. Mausoleums are open year-round, so you don’t have to postpone death planning. 

If you’d like to care for the environment after death, entombments are a green burial option. Although embalming fluids are commonly used, tombs require less space. Crypts are stacked on top and next to each other, saving space and the environment. 

While entombments offer more convenience, there are dangers. It’s not uncommon for caskets to explode. As the gases from remains become trapped, they can spill out the fluids trapped inside. This is avoided by choosing a properly designed casket that released build-up.

Since mausoleums can be expensive, this is a factor you should consider before choosing. Let’s take a look at the cost breakdown below. 

Cost 

Burials and mausoleums are comparative in cost, depending on the services you choose. Prices can increase if your family prefers mahogany or bronze caskets. The casket alone costs up to 10,000 dollars.

A mausoleum space ranges between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars. Custom-built mausoleums are more expensive.

Funeral costs can add up, but there are alternatives you can choose to save funds. For example, green burials don’t require a casket. A group crypt is less expensive than a private one. Having a burial on your own property is also a significant reduction. 

If you feel certain that a mausoleum burial is right for your family, then choosing cremation is more affordable than a casket entombment. More people are choosing cremation in the U.S., and it will soon bypass traditional burials in popularity. 

What’s the Entombment Process Like?

The entombment process can be simple or complex, depending on family preferences. Some families choose indoor buildings, while others prefer an outdoor crypt. You may even want to consider a custom made building designed just for your loved one. 

After you choose the location, the funeral home will prepare the remains. Most funeral homes require that they embalm the remains, so make sure this is your preference.

In the past, ancient Egyptians removed the deceased’s organs before placing them in crypts. Then, the organs were placed in special containers and buried with the corpse. The Egyptians were the first ancient population to entomb their deceased.

Today, no organs are removed in the process. However, most funeral homes require embalming, so make sure this is your preference. 

The funeral home should take care of the documentation and interment rights for your loved one. These are the rights to entomb your loved one. Funeral homes also keep permanent records, so your loved one’s memory is preserved forever. 

Plan Your Burial 

Your final resting place is the last and most important decision you can make. Our end-of-life planning tool is one way to ensure your family and friends know your wishes and follow them.

Your final resting place is forever and, now your preferences can be memorialized, too. 


Sources 

  1. Mackenbach, Jonah. “Dead body with mourners: medical reflections on the entombment of Christ.” BMJ. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1126581/
  2. Tang, Joanne. “Cemeteries use a lot of space and are terrible for the environment. Is there a better way?” Greater Great Washington. 9 January 2019.www.ggwash.org/view/70300/burial-culture-and-the-issues-with-using-so-much-space-for-cemeteries
  3. “Facts You Should Know About Above Ground-Burial.” Diocese of Orange Catholic Cemeteries. www.occem.org/about/property-options/is-above-ground-burial-right-for-you-and-your-family/
  4. “Guide to Cemetery Purchases.” Funeral Consumers Alliance. www.funerals.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/2017-07-07-cemetery-brochure.pdf
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