People and cultures have not always buried their dead in the ground at all points in history. For example, entombment has historically been one of the most common burial alternatives.
Entombment involves storing a dead body in an aboveground structure like in the Pyramids of Giza.
You may assume that nobody practices entombment anymore, but that’s not the case. Many countries throughout the globe contain more modern tombs than you might expect. You might even have the option to visit some of them. Read through our list of modern tombs.
1. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, VA
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — the most famous monument at Arlington National Cemetery — became a feature of the cemetery in 1921. It first held the body of one unknown soldier from World War I. Over the years, the tomb has come to serve as the final resting place for several other unidentified soldiers from various other American wars.
The tomb honors service members who sadly remain unidentified after dying in combat. New York Congressman Hamilton Fish, Jr. first proposed the idea for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier “to bring home the body of an unknown American warrior who in himself represents no section, creed, or race in the late war and who typifies, moreover, the soul of America and the supreme sacrifice of her heroic dead.”
Instead of honoring one individual soldier, visiting the tomb gives guests the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices all members of the military make.
Similar tombs and graves in fact exist throughout the world. Noteworthy examples include the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in France, the Unknown Warrior grave in the U.K., and the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Iraq.
2. Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao (aka Mausoleum of Mao Zedong) in Beijing, China
Regardless of politics, for better or for worse, Mao Zedong played an extremely significant role in the recent history of China. After his death, his followers entombed him in the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao. Decades later, locals and tourists continue to visit his final resting place.
3. Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow, Russia
Vladimir Lenin, another potentially controversial 20th-century figure, also has a famous tomb. Visitors in Red Square can stop by Lenin’s Mausoleum to see his preserved body on display behind bulletproof glass. However, officials take security very seriously and exercise vigilant control over the experience. They’ll usher along any guests who linger for too long.
4. The Pantheon in Paris, France
The Pantheon itself may seem a little too old to qualify as a modern tomb in the opinion of some, but the fact that it continues to serve as the tomb for various modern figures (such as Marie Curie) earns it a spot on this list.
5. Tomb of Marshal Ferdinand Foch in Paris, France
You can find the tomb of Ferdinand Foch, Marshal of France during World War I, at Les Invalides in Paris. This historic landmark is also the home to Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb. That particular tomb may not be modern, but it’s certainly worth a visit if you’re a history buff and in the area.
6. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam
Since its completion in 1975, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum has consistently attracted guests who wish to see the body of the famous leader of Vietnam on display. Just know that you must dress respectfully and somewhat modestly when visiting. Guests also can’t bring cameras or bags inside Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Free admission makes a visit an affordable way to engage with history.
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7. Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China
The Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, one of the most gorgeous modern tombs you may ever visit, remains part of a large complex in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province’s Purple Mountain.
Along with the tomb itself, the complex features a striking pavilion, an impressive statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen (a major figure in upending the monarchy in China), and various other beautiful architectural and decorative features.
8. Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi in Kampala, Uganda
Some may not consider the tomb of Buganda Kings may not consider it modern. However, it’s worth including on this list because some of the tombs in the overall complex are only a few decades old. The building itself represents an impressive use of organic materials in architecture and construction. It’s certainly unlike most other tombs you may ever visit.
9. Nicolas Cage’s Pyramid Tomb in New Orleans, Louisiana
Actor Nicolas Cage apparently hopes his final resting place will be in New Orleans’ famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. He prepurchased a unique pyramid tomb (which some might also call a lawn crypt) on the grounds.
Visiting this particular cemetery won’t merely give you a chance to check out Cage’s (theoretical) future tomb. The cemetery is also home to the alleged grave of voodoo queen Marie Laveau. A visit will also teach you more about the ways New Orleans’ geography has forced cemeteries to use tombs and crypts instead of typical burial grounds.
That said, while most New Orleans cemeteries remain open to the public, because St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 has such historical significance, guests can only visit by scheduling a tour with an approved and licensed guide.
10. Kinnitty Pyramid in Birr, Ireland
Kinnitty Pyramid, one of the older “modern” tombs on this list, has continued to accept new bodies into the modern era. Its design replicates the Great Pyramid of Giza on a small scale.
The tomb serves as the final resting place for several important members of a wealthy Irish family that once owned a nearby castle. Many believe the member of the family who first chose to build the tomb did so specifically because he wanted to enshrine his family the same way Egyptians enshrined the pharaohs.
11. Pyramid of Stjärneborg in Aneby C, Sweden
This pyramid, the work of the eccentric and rich Swedish figure, Georg Malte Gustav August Liewen Stierngranat, built the tomb for himself on the grounds of his family’s former estate. The property also includes a museum you can visit.
12. The Dorn Pyramid in San Luis Obispo, California
This large granite pyramid was created by wealthy attorney Fred Adolphus Dorn in 1905 after his wife and son died during childbirth.
The sealed tomb features an inscription of the words “DISTVRB NOT THE SLEEP OF DEATH” on its front. That said, while you can’t go inside the tomb itself, you can still see it from the outside.
13. ‘Apartment Building’ Tombs in Various Countries
Many of the examples here highlighted the fact that people have often chosen to entomb major cultural figures or the wealthy elite. However, sometimes a form of entombment may simply involve a response to practical needs.
For example, apartment building-style “tombs” have cropped up in cities throughout the world. In places like Israel and Brazil, people have encountered limited space for traditional burials. Due to cultural or religious objections, many people in these parts of the world may feel cremation isn’t an option.
They’ve come up with a new solution: Structures that, from the street, look like standard office or apartment buildings. Inside, numerous bodies exist in small rooms or enclosures. Tall apartment-style buildings can store numerous bodies without requiring more land.
14. A Mausoleum in (Almost) Anywhere
Many now consider the word "tomb" to apply to any structure that houses the bodies of the dead. Any recent mausoleum may qualify as a modern tomb. Don't forget to look at our list of the world’s most famous mausoleums!
Modern Tombs: An Ancient Practice Revived Today
Although the world’s most well-known tombs have aged to hundreds or even thousands of years old, that doesn’t mean you should consider entombment as an exclusively ancient practice. Examples such as those on this list prove entombment continues to this very day and likely will in the future.
- Bluitt, Rebecca. “Red Square rendezvous: Visiting Lenin's body in Moscow.” CNN Travel, Cable News Network, 9 November 2017, www.cnn.com/travel/article/lenin-mausoleum-moscow/index.html
- “Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum.” Travel China Guide, Travel China Guide, www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/jiangsu/nanjing/sun.htm
- “Exploring St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.” Exploring New Orleans French Quarter, FrenchQuarter.com, www.frenchquarter.com/st-louis-cemetery-no-1/
- Gorvett, Zaria. “The buildings designed to house the dead.” BBC Future, BBC, 28 November 2017, www.bbc.com/future/article/20171127-the-buildings-designed-to-house-the-dead
- “Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.” Hanoi by Hotels.com, Asia Web Direct, www.vietnam-guide.com/hanoi/hochiminh-mausoleum.htm
- “Kinnitty Pyramid.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, www.atlasobscura.com/places/kinnitty-pyramid
- “LES INVALIDES, THE MILITARY MUSEUM AND TOMB OF NAPOLEON.” Napoleon.org, Fondation Napoléon, www.napoleon.org/en/magazine/places/les-invalides-the-military-museum-and-tomb-of-napoleon/
- “Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao (Maozhuxi Jinian Tang).” Travel China Guide, Travel China Guide, www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/beijing/tiananmen-square/chairman-mao-mausoleum.htm
- “Pyramid of Stjärneborg.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, www.atlasobscura.com/places/pyramid-of-stjarneborg
- “Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi.” UNESCO, whc.unesco.org/en/list/1022/
- “Tomb of Marshal Ferdinand Foch, ca. 1945.” University of Massachusetts Amherst, credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mufs181-b002-f024-i021
- “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” Arlington National Cemetery, www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Tomb-of-the-Unknown-Soldier