Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.


Historically, cremation has been practiced from as early as the Neolithic period. Later, it was well-known in classical Greek society, sometimes occurring alongside burial when it was, perhaps, restricted to individuals of high social status. The Romans practiced cremation as their major funeral rite until the 2nd centuryA.D. when they switched to burial in a remarkable change of cultural practice that has not been fully explained and was unlikely to be due entirely to the rise of Christianity. In ancient China, parts of Southeast Asia, India, and among some North and South American ...

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