Seven Unique Cemeteries & Burial Sites from Across the Globe

Written By A.R. Arthur

A.R. Arthur (formerly A.R. Salandy) is a Black Mixed-race poet & writer who has spent most of his life in Kuwait jostling between the UK & America. He is the EIC of Fahmidan Journal/Publishing & Co, Reviews Editor at Full House Literary & Poetry Editor at Chestnut Review. Twitter/Instagram: @ararthurwriter

The Hanging Coffins of SagadaThe Philippines

While this tradition can be seen in a few other areas globally, the hanging coffins of Sagada are perhaps some of the boldest examples of this tradition. The wooden coffins of the indigenous Kankanaey people hang from the sides of cliffs in Echo Valley, Sagada. These coffins are usually carved by the deceased themselves before inhabiting their new home. Once they die, their coffin is either stacked in a cave, such as in the Lumiang Cave nearby or suspended from a cliff face. The Kanakaney people believe that this tradition brings the deceased closer to the afterlife and their ancestors thus aiding their ascent to the next world.

Merry CemeterySapanta, Romania

This colorful, vibrant cemetery is one that continues to enchant visitors for the great magnitude of ornate decorations that adorn these graves. Each internment is provided a hand-carved gravestone with inscriptions ranging from short to lengthy depictions of the deceased’s life to how they died more specifically. These inscriptions range from being positive and reflective to negative and directed towards who or what killed the deceased. Some even have poems written either to honor the dead’s qualities or the life they lived.

Okunoin CemeteryKōya, Wakayama, Japan

This cemetery is unique for the great deal of graves that it houses approximately a quarter of a million graves. By far the largest cemetery in Japan, this burial ground is so sought after as it is home to the final resting place of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism who is said to be eternally meditating awaiting the future Buddha. Followers of this branch of Buddhism believe that the closer they are buried to Daishi, the more likely they’ll achieve eternal salvation with the coming of the future Buddha. While this cemetery is home to many long departed, it is also home to a great deal of ornate statues, lanterns and other symbolic offerings to Daishi which add to its mystique.

Neptune Memorial ReefKey Biscayne, Florida, United States

Perhaps best known both for its quirky burial practice and for being the eternal home of acclaimed American chef Julia Child, the Neptune Memorial Reef is a manmade reef where the deceased can become interwoven with the present aquatic life. Whilst this is a unique creation in that this form of burial at sea is achieved through the mixing of ashes with concrete to form this reef, it serves as a way to benefit both sea-life and the preservation of local species.

Fagg El GamousFaiyum Governorate, Egypt

This burial ground dates from the first to the seventh centuries, and was created during Roman control of Egypt. Over a million mummies are estimated to be buried in this cemetery with most of its dead buried without coffins or any grave treasures as one might expect from mummies in Egypt. Fagg El Gamous is a cemetery used by low-status inhabitants of Egypt who couldn’t afford the funeral rituals of the pharaohs. However, some of the graves present from the latter period of this cemetery’s active usage may have also be adherents to the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judiaism and potentially early converters to Islam. Archaeologists have not ascertained why so many corpses were buried here as the quantity of bodies seems to suggest foreign burial inclusion as well.

Greyfriars KirkyardEdinburgh, Scotland

This graveyard is notorious for its widespread use of grave protection devices that were popularized throughout the late medieval and renaissance period. Mortsafes were used for a variety of reasons including: preventing grave robbers from exhuming the deceased, protecting the deceased from those who had nefarious ideas for the corpse and in some cases, a fear of reanimation of the departed. While this graveyard is a famous tourist attraction it is also full of stunning memorials and graves that allow the visitor to peek into a distant past.

New Lucky RestaurantAhmedabad, India

Whilst this location isn’t quite your traditional cemetery, this restaurant exists atop a burial site and proudly advertises it! With a variety of open sarcophagi dotted between the tables, this restaurant is sure to make for a macabre, quirky and fascinating dining experience. Although no one is sure who these graves belong to, their existence is approximated to be over 450 years old with some linking these graves to followers of a Sufi Muslim holy person. Ironically, this eatery’s owner claims that it is “lucky” to eat with the dead and even suggests that the dead have been a source of positive energy which has helped the business. A strange concept indeed!

[image of Merry Cemetery by Aw58 — CC BY-SA 3.0]