Burial, the disposal of the dead by interment. Etymologically the meaning should be limited to this definition, though it is often so extended as to cover any method of disposing of corpses. The oldest, and to this day the commonest, method of effecting this is by inhumation. The idea expressed in Gen. iii. 19 - that man was taken from the earth and would return to it - was echoed in classic mythology, which told of a loving Earth-mother, with arms wide enough to embrace all her children; and Milton borrowed from the ancients when he made the Archangel promise Adam that after a long and temperate life he should drop, like ripe fruit, into his mother's lap (P. L. xi. 530-6). The first burials were probably rude enough - a mere hiding of the remains in the earth. But as man developed morally these would naturally be treated wdth greater respect, The growing idea of the continuity of human life was also a powerful factor in this matter. To early man Death was in very deed the twin-brother of Sleep, and the departed were conceived of as having the same wants and feelings as the living. Hence arose the practice of depositing utensils and arms in the grave, and on this conception was based the whole system of funeral sacrifice (q.v.). From the same conception arose the ancient idea that an unburied corpse was deprived of rest or denied admission to the world of spirits; and similar consequences are attributed to the denial of Christian burial. From fear to affection as a motive marks a long stage in evolution; and one of the first examples of this progress is found in Gen. xxiii., which no one can read without sympathising with the tone of sorrow in the words of Abraham - "my dead." From inhumation, whether preceded or not by cremation (q.v.), the step to some kind of memorial was easy, and of this the simplest and most widely distributed forms are the barrow (q.v.) and the cairn (q.v.). The desire to retain the remains of loved ones among the living probably gave rise to the practice of embalming (q.v.), the preserved bodies being afterwards deposited in wooden chests or in sarcophagi. These, though the principal, are far from being the only methods of disposing of the dead. The Sagas tell how the old sea-kings were placed after death on the deck of their ship, which was then covered with an immense mound of earth, or set on fire and sent to sea with all sails set. Some savage tribes erect or appropriate a hut as a dwelling for the dead. North American Indians in some parts dry the corpse and expose it on a scaffold, and a nearly similar exposure is practised by the Parsees in their Towers of Silence.
There is an inherent Common Law right in the parishioners of every parish in England to be buried in the parish churchyard. The mode of such burial is a matter of ecclesiastical cognisance. Under the statute 4 George IV., c. 52, the remains of persons against whom a finding of felo de se is had are to be privately interred in the churchyard of the parish, but no Christian rites of burial are to be performed over them. All burials must be registered. By an Act passed in the year 1857, provision is made for the constitution of a burial board in every parish, and where two parishes, each maintaining its own poor, are united together for ecclesiastical purposes, a burial board for the whole district, appointed by vote of the vestry, or meeting in the nature of a vestry, is properly constituted. No fee appertains to burial at Common Law, but it may be chargeable by custom or in virtue of particular statutes. The Common Law rule that every burial in a parochial churchyard must be celebrated according to the rites of the Established Church, has been abolished by the "Burial Laws Amendment Act 1880," which enacts that a deceased person may be buried within the churchyard or graveyard of a parish or ecclesiastical district or place without the Church of England burial service, provided proper notice be given to the incumbent. The burial may take place without any religious service or with any Christian and orderly religious service, but the Act only extends to burial grounds in which the parishioners or inhabitants of the parish or ecclesiastical district have rights of burial, and does not extend to other places nor authorise the burial of any person in a burial ground vested in trustees without the performance of any express condition on which by the terms of the trust deed the right of interment may have been granted. There are several statutes providing for the acquisition of new burial grounds where the existing ones are insufficient. The Public Health (Interments) Act, 1879, empowers local authorities to acquire, construct and maintain cemeteries subject to the provisions of the "Cemeteries Clauses Act, 1847," and the "Public Health Act,' 1875." In the United States it is a misdemeanor, in any one whose duty it is to do so, not to bury a dead body; also to omit to give notice to the coroner that a body on which an inquest should be held is lying unburied, or to bury or otherwise dispose of such body without notice to the coroner.