Death. Until they’ve perfected nanobots it will come to us all. Most of us tend to consider our own demise as more than a little bit depressing and certainly not a fitting topic for the dinner table. We tend to think of cemeteries as being for ghosts, vampires and weeping nans, but not everywhere has such a staid attitude to burial. We take a look at some of the world’s most unusual cemeteries.
Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, Indonesia
While still alive, an adult Toraja will raise money for their family to throw the biggest, best party in town when they die. Dozens of buffalo and pigs are sacrificed for a feast and the whole community celebrates. But once they’ve splurged all the dosh on a ruddy good knees-up, there’s little left for a funeral. So, until they’ve raised more funds, the body is stored under the family home and referred to as 'the sick'.
Eventually, the inevitably putrid body is placed into a network of tombs that have been dug into the nearby cliffs. A life-size wooden effigy is propped up along one of the rock balconies, joining long dead relatives and friends, so their spirit can watch over their descendants. If a baby or small child dies however, a new hole is made in one of the Baby Trees. The little corpse is inserted and the hole is resealed. When the tree begins to heal they believe the child is absorbed.
Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
We might see a creepy bunch of human bones, but to the woodcarver František Rintn, it was his masterpiece. So much so, in fact, he even signed his work in bone (not his own though - that might have been difficult).
The 40,000 bones he used to turn the ossuary into a gothic human-themed showroom came from the cemetery of the little church it sits beneath. The site became a popular final destination after a handful of soil from Jesus’ grave was scattered there in the 13th Century. So popular, that after a while the monks had to dig up the bones of those who'd already been buried to make way for new bodies.
In 1870, Rintn, faced with the unenviable task of finding something to do with the huge piles of bones, did what any normal human being would do: fashioned a chandelier, candelabra and shield, complete with raven pecking at a beheaded Turk.
City of the Dead, Dargavs, Russia
This necropolis dates back to at least the 14th century. There are just under a hundred of these stone crypts scattered on the hillside containing clothes, belongings and, of course, stiffs. Whole families would be buried in these huts, especially during epidemics such as the plague. At times, when dying had become particularly trendy, and there was no one left to bury the bodies, the people left behind would take themselves off to the crypt and wait to die.
The huts were built out on the hills because no one wanted to live there. It was too windy and hard to get to, so the land was cheap. Lovely view though, presumably that's why they put the windows in.
Hanging Coffins, Gongxian County, China
The ancient custom of hanging coffins is found across Asia: similar sites can be found in Indonesia and the Philippines. Some dangle from wooden stakes, others sit on rocks or in caves. No one really knows why this was done, but it’s thought it was to take the bodies closer to heaven, y’know, just in case their souls were a bit tired.
La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
This city cemetery is like a small town in itself. Walkways wind through mausoleums, pilled high with generations of the dead, some in such disrepair that coffins lie open, exposing bones. Each tomb is different, there are cathedral styles, art nouveau, and modernistic bank-like boxes. Masonic pyramids also sit along the streets of death, statues of pagan gods and a fair few cats. We don’t want to think about what they live off.
The higgledy piggeldy graveyard’s most famous resident is Eva 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' Peron (Evita), but the body of a 19 year-old named Rufina Cambaceres also lies here. She was mistakenly buried alive after becoming catatonic when she caught her mother shagging her boyfriend. Cemetery guards discovered the clawed lid of her coffin when it cracked - she had died from a heart attack trying to escape. Cue spooky ghost noise.