The origins and history of cremation worldwide

3rd millennium BC, Mesopotamia

The custom of burying the dead by burning dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. Cremation is considered to have been initiated by the Sumerian clergy of Mesopotamia. At that time, it was believed that the soul of the deceased was freed from the body, purified and immortalised through fire. Later, the Sumerian method of cremation spread to other Asian countries and to Africa. Many ancient peoples (Assyrians, Babylonians, Jews) burnt the dead on stakes in special ceremonies.

13th century BC, Europe

In Central Europe, the burning of remains dates back to the 13th century BC. Later, it spread to Western Europe. Ceremonial cremation of remains was also common in Ancient Greece, Rome, Slavic tribes, Japan, India and other countries in Southeast Asia.

  • 1873. Beginning of modern cremation

    1873. Beginning of modern cremation

    January 1, 1873

    Modern cremation can be considered to have originated at the end of the 14th century. After years of experimentation and refinement of the technology, the first modern cremation furnace was presented by Italian Professor Ludovico Brunetti at the Vienna Science Exhibition in 1873. Soon after, cremation movements began to gain popularity on both sides of the Atlantic.

  • 1876, USA

    1876, USA

    January 1, 1876

    In North America, cremation began in 1876, when Dr Julius Lemoine opened the first crematorium in the nation’s capital, Washington DC. Since then, the popularity of cremation as a method of burial in the United States of America (USA) has grown rapidly. This has been influenced by the Protestant Church’s decision to change the burial ceremony habits. The sanitary condition of cemeteries in the country was a major concern at the time.

  • 1913. American Cremation Association

    1913. American Cremation Association

    January 1, 1913

    In 1913, the American Cremation Association was founded in the USA, with 52 crematoria across the country.

  • 1984 m. England

    1984 m. England

    January 1, 1984

    Queen Victoria’s surgeon, Henry Thomson, made a significant contribution to the rise in popularity of cremation in the British Isles, including the founding of the official English Cremation Society in 1874. The first crematoria were soon established in Europe. As early as 1878, crematoria opened their doors for the first time on the old continent in Woking (England) and Gotha (Germany).

  • 2000 – 2020: the rise in popularity of cremation

    2000 – 2020: the rise in popularity of cremation

    January 1, 2000

    Today, cremation is one of the most popular methods of burial worldwide. According to a study carried out between 2019 and 2020, as many as 54.6% of all remains of the deceased in the USA were cremated. In Germany, the figure was 69%, and in Sweden it was 83%.


1st millennium BC. Cremation customs in the Baltic tribes

The tradition of cremation became popular in the Baltic countries and Lithuania in the middle of the 1st millennium BC. During this period, the graves of the burnt remains of the dead in Western Lithuania were placed in clay urns or in pits known as ‘krūsnis‘. In other parts of Lithuania, the dead were buried in burial mounds.

10–12th century. Revival of cremation

In the 1st and 2nd centuries, the dead began to be buried unburnt, and in the 5th–9th centuries the custom of burning the dead began to spread again. In the 10th and 12th centuries, the tradition of cremation of the dead regained ground in the whole territory of present-day Lithuania and lasted until the 13th and 14th centuries. The Lithuanians and Jotvingians of eastern and southeastern Lithuania buried their cremated dead in burial mounds, while in the rest of Lithuania, the cremated remains were buried in cemeteries.

1932–1936. Beginning of modern cremation and the first crematorium

Cremation of the remains of the deceased was officially legalised in modern Lithuania in 1932. In 1936, the first and at that time the only crematorium in the country was opened at Kaunas Medical University.

1937–1938. First cremations in Lithuania

In 1937, a medical student who died of complications from an embolism became the first person to be cremated in this crematorium. In 1938, the remains of Marija, the wife of the USSR Ambassador to Lithuania, Nikolai Pozdniakov, were cremated here.

1938–1940. The rise in popularity of cremation among prominent Lithuanian personalities

The crematorium became a sensation in the provisional capital, especially among the intelligentsia. Many of the famous Lithuanian artists and scientists of the time often expressed their last wish that their bodies be burnt after death. Until 1940, the crematorium was used to cremate the remains of VDU rector Vincas Čepinskis, actor and director Konstantinas Glinskis, lawyer Petras Leonas, professor Petras Avižonis, public figure Liudas Vaineikis and other famous people.



An environmentally friendly facility that meets the highest modern quality standards and offers a wide range of modern cremation and burial services.

Klaipėda District, Toleikiai Village, Volungių g. 11, LT-95387

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