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The History of Urns

The History of Urns

A cremation urn otherwise known as a funerary urn or burial urn is a type of vessel. These vessels are commonly used in burials to hold the cremated ashes of a loved one. Throughout history religion has been known to use urns to house vital organs and/or property of a deceased and then place them around the deceased's coffin.


Cremation is one of the most controversial topics in human history. Whilst some cultures and religions support cremation, there is still a lot of controversy surrounding it. Some groups claim that it is an inappropriate disposition of the human body and even call it a macabre. Despite the support or not cremation is one of the longest standing memorial traditions of human history.

Cremation Urns

The earliest evidence of deceased's ashes being collected into urns was found in China. When 32 burial urns were discovered in an early Jiahu site which date back to 7000 BC. In Yangshao approximately 700 burial urns with 50 different styles were unearthed that date between 5000-3000 BC. Allegedly these urns were used for children and also sporadically used for adults.

Educators agree today that proper cremation began during the early Stone Age around 3000 BC. By the end of the Stone Age cremation had started to spread throughout northern Europe. Around the start of the Bronze Age cremation had spread into Spain and Portugal. Cemetaries were developed for cremation in Hungary, northern Italy and even Ireland.

Ancient Cremation

Cremation was usual in ancient Greece. Ashes were typically placed in a painted Greek vase, the most common was a lekythos. Lekythos vases were also used for holding oil in funerary rituals.

Romans also practiced cremation and used to place their urns in a collective tomb called a colmbarium. Columbariums were often built partly or completely underground.

Modern Day Urns

These days urns are used to hold the ashes of a loved one or beloved pet. They can be decorative and made from various different materials such as wood, stone, ceramic, marble, glass and steel. Some are used to hold the ashes until they can be scattered or buried, others are kept as keepsakes within the homes of the loved one.

Remember your loved one with a bespoke stone urn

Since 1980 MMS Memorials have been producing quality cremation urns to the highest standard with fine attention to detail and skilled craftsmanship.

View our selection of Cremation urns handcrafted lovingly with care and attention to detail by our skilled stonemasons.