Friday, June 24, 2011

Rest in Peace

I see that after 1,500 undisturbed years, archaeologists have sneaked a camera into another ancient Mayan Tomb. It certainly dispels the notion of "final resting place." Nothing is final. Modern civilization has plundered ancient tombs around the world. I question how valuable it is to loot yet another tomb. If they have dropped a camera into it, how far behind is a tourist bus with hundreds of hot, bored vacationers listening to Mayan tour guides telling them that their ancestors were a peaceful nation who loved Mother Earth and prayed for successful crops? Yes, the ancients produced art on the stone walls as a tribute to their dead, but do we really need to see it? Is nothing sacred? In this country, it would require a court order to enter a grave site that is less than two hundred years old. Do we value our more recent ancestors more than the ancient ones?


I can understand the quest of archaeologists to study civilizations of the past and understand how mankind has developed thereby building their professional creds. How many tombs do we need to study?  It seems that the answer is if we find one, we will break into it. The discovery of such a treasure trove will undoubtedly make a feather in the cap of an ambitious archaeologist and provide fodder for another Indiana Jones movie. It will produce more articles on Wikipedia so researchers can write more scholarly articles about the supposed lives of the ancients.

I am leery of the treasure hunters who just want to find anything valuable in tombs so they can sell it and profit. Naturally, I imagine they would argue that removing gold, jewels and valuables from tombs is a legitimate enterprise. Why should valuables gather dust in an ancient tomb? Why should ship wrecks house tons of gold and jewels? There is a museum waiting to display those gold coins and mummies so we have some place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

More questions than answers and it leads me to wonder where I would want to park my bones. It is a question that we all face and some of us have definite decisions and for some of us no decision is our decision. I can think of one person who knew exactly where she wanted to be buried and her wishes were fulfilled. I know another person who couldn't decide so the children decided on a final burial location. I know someone who chose cremation and ashes to be scattered on a golf course. "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." It made me wonder who was on the eighteenth green of the U.S. Open.

I don't think most people in this country still have the same reverence for the dead that the ancients displayed. As populations explode, we have to make more practical arrangements for disposing of those "dearly departed" folks. Now I will find spam from a funeral home in my e-mail telling me that I need to reserve a spot for my bones and pay them five thousand dollars forthwith. I'm not such a control freak that I even care what happens to my bones, certainly not enough to pay anyone five thousand dollars so I get the final decision in the matter.


  1. My parents were both cremated and we planted their ashes together in a resting place, a home where they were happy together. They didn't really care, since they were already gone. I'm choosing cremation and hoping to have my ashes scattered over a wilderness area. If they allow it, that is.

  2. Hi R.J., In a way, "final resting place" is indeed final, at least as far as we know. Whether we have one time around in this lifetime, or keep coming back over and over, eventually we are somewhere else and have no interest in this place or the life we lived here. At least that is my opinion. People in all professions are looking to get a name for themselves and want to stand out. Too bad the ancients didn't leave huge notes on the walls to leave them alone and stay the heck out.

  3. Well, "sacred" is relative. I'm not much of an archeological, architectural, or anthropological tourist. But I do think there is value in studying civilizations of the past — it's just not vacation or leisure fodder for me. I'll read about it online or in magazines... but I'm not really a see-the-sites type.

    We all have our own beliefs.

  4. There is simply no aesthetic way to dispose of a corpse, but I find the least objectionable--at least on an aesthetic basis--to be cremation.