Monday, 13 April 2009

Most Fascinating Tombs in the world (Part 1)

Throughout the history of human civilization, different cultures mourn and treat the dead differently. Some, like Tibetan Buddhists, have no use for burials as they dispose the dead by feeding corpses to vultures or by burning them in funeral pyres. Most cultures, however, show their respect by burying the dead, sometimes in complex and ornate tombs, crypts, and catacombs.

This article takes a look at ten of the most fascinating final resting places around the world, from the largest prehistoric burial mound in Europe to the the tombs of pharaohs to the most beautiful mausoleum in the world:

Giza Necropolis

There are more than 100 pyramids in Egypt, with the largest and most famous being the complex of pyramids in Giza Necropolis, Cairo, Egypt. This complex consists of the Great Pyramid of Giza (tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu or Cheops), the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Great Sphinx statue, as well as several other smaller satellite pyramids.

Let’s take, for instance, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the only surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. When it was completed in 2560 BC, the pyramid was 481 feet (147 m) tall with each base side being 758 feet (231 m) wide. The blocks weigh about 1.5 tons each, with the internal granite blocks used as the roof of the burial chamber being about 80 tons each. The ancient Egyptians knew what they were doing: the base sides have a mean margin of error of only 2 1/3 inch (58 mm)! Needless to say, it is an amazing work of engineering.

Westminster Abbey

The gothic church Westminster Abbey in London, United Kingdom was established by Benedictine monks in the tenth century (and rebuilt in the 13th century by King Henry III) - since then it has evolved into both the coronation church for English royalty and the final resting place of monarchs.

Though at first Westminster Abbey was the burial place of kings, aristocrats, and monks, it soon became the tomb-of-choice (if there is such a thing) for the who’s who in England. Poets and writers like Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred Tennyson; as well as scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Ernest Rutherford were all interred there.

Tana Toraja

The Toraja people in Sulawesi, Indonesia, have what is probably the most complex funeral ritual in the world. When someone dies, the funeral is attended by a lot of people and can last for days! But that’s not the strange part - this is: the funeral ceremony is often held weeks, months, or even years after the death (to give the family of the deceased time to raise enough money for expenses).

Torajans can wait that long because they believe that death is not a sudden event but instead a gradual process towards the afterlife (if you’re wondering about the smell - the dead body is embalmed within the first few days of death, then stored in a secret place until the funeral ceremony).

After much partying (including the slaughter of one or several water buffaloes), the dead is buried in a stone cave carved out of a rocky cliff. A wood-carved effigy called tau tau, carved with the likeness of the dead person is then placed in the balcony of the tomb to represent the dead and watch over their remains.


The burial mound of Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland is definitely one of the most impressive prehistoric monuments in the world. Build between 3300 BC - 2900 BC, it is the also the world’s oldest surviving building (it’s older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt).

Newgrange is impressive: the circular mound is 250 feet (76 m) across and 40 feet (12 m) high. It covers an entire acre (4046 m²). A long tunnel under the mound leads to a high-domed burial chamber, a corbelled vault with ceilings made of huge, interlocking stone slabs.

The entrance to Newgrange is marked with a huge curbstone that is elaborately carved with "megalithic art," which includes spiral and concentric arc motifs chipped into the stone with flint tools.