A Tour of History's Smart Graveyards

A Tour of History’s Smart Graveyards

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Johannesburg has a grave downside: individuals preserve stealing tombstones. While the lifeless definitely don’t care, grieving households do, and so a non-public firm has stepped up and provided microchips as a possible answer.

Microchips may supply a deterrent to tombstone thefts, or a minimum of an opportunity to catch the culprits at a time when round 20 tombstones are being stolen per 30 days in South Africa’s largest metropolis. Once the microchip is put in throughout the tombstone, the Associated Press reports, it takes two types of motion if a grave marker is disturbed. First, it can sound an alarm inside the cemetery itself, in hopes of interrupting the crime. Second, it would ship textual content messages to dwelling relations, letting them know one thing has gone down.

These “good” tombstones are neither the primary nor the final try to combine expertise into graveyards. Throughout historical past, we have now seemed for methods to make use of our data and the most recent instruments to not solely rethink what cemeteries are and how they work, however to increase our very notions of life and dying.

HOW TO EXHUME YOURSELF (JUST IN CASE)

The Premature Burial by Antoine Wiertz depicts the restoration of supposed cholera victims, and is credited with popularizing the security coffin. Via Wikimedia Commons.

An early advance in graveyard tech was the safety coffin. Back within the 18th and nineteenth centuries, individuals feared being buried alive. The concern was so palpable that it drove a quantity of artistic, albeit considerably weird and hilarious options for burying the downside if and when it arose. Of the accessible choices, essentially the most well-known instance was the bell setup whereby a chord connected to a bell was prolonged into the coffin. Should a corpse not likely be a corpse and get up within the nightmarish state of affairs of being buried alive, the non-deceased might ring the bell to draw consideration and be launched. Alternatives to the bell included flags, fireworks, and vaults.

A variation on this was the “moveable dying chamber,” a physique field with a viewing window by way of which a crew of screens might really make sure that an individual was decaying. As described within the guide Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, “If there have been clear indicators of putrefaction, a trapdoor within the backside of the loss of life chamber can be triggered, and the corpse would fall down right into a beforehand dug grave beneath it.”

VIRTUAL  

New applied sciences to retailer data, photographs, and different varieties of information have begun to make the standard tombstone inscription look as archaic because the floppy disk. No longer are individuals restricted to their identify, date of demise, and a contrived phrase; their total life histories can now be queued up by way of smartphone.

Much like the protection coffin, there are quite a few iterations of this theme. Earlier makes an attempt to combine information storage with tombstones as a type of memorial have been laughable—clunky iPad-esque screens garishly connected to a love one’s marker. But now now we have sleeker alternate options. When scanned, QR codes, connected through sticker or by itself tiny separate stone, whisk cemetery guests to a memorial web site full with, effectively, actually no matter you need. Another possibility is the E-TOMB, which retains your presence alive lengthy after you stop to be. There’s additionally Neshama, the so-known as Facebook for dead people.

VENDING MACHINES FOR THE DEAD

In Japan, burials are costly. A few years in the past, Tokyo noticed plots going for $100,000 a head. And provided that a big share of Japanese are cremated upon demise, such bills appear superfluous.

Enter the urn warehouse. Instead of spending large cash to bury family members beneath the bottom, some grieving households in Japan have as a substitute interred their relations’ stays in technologically-superior warehouses. Should they want to pay their respects, a certified member of the family scans an figuring out card. Once their card is acknowledged, a robo-arm finds and grabs the suitable urn from storage and brings it to a particular mourning room. In a approach, it’s type of like a merchandising machine for the useless.

These options will not be applicable to you (I doubt you want a “moveable demise chamber”) or they merely might not attraction (I definitely don’t need my some of my extra egregious tweets being obtainable to anybody who occurs to stroll by my future grave). But these and extra choices are on the market, which says extra about our relationship to our personal mortality than it does about our private preferences.


Johannesburg has a grave problem: people keep stealing tombstones. While the dead certainly don’t care, grieving families do, and so a private company has stepped up and offered microchips as a potential solution.

Microchips could offer a deterrent to tombstone thefts, or at least a chance to catch the culprits at a time when around 20 tombstones are being stolen per month in South Africa's largest city. Once the microchip is installed within the tombstone, the Associated Press reports, it takes two forms of action if a grave marker is disturbed. First, it will sound an alarm within the cemetery itself, in hopes of interrupting the crime. Second, it will send text messages to living relatives, letting them know something has gone down.

These “smart” tombstones are neither the first nor the last attempt to integrate technology into graveyards. Throughout history, we have looked for ways to use our knowledge and the newest tools to not only rethink what cemeteries are and how they work, but to expand our very notions of life and death. 

HOW TO EXHUME YOURSELF (JUST IN CASE)

The Premature Burial by Antoine Wiertz depicts the recovery of supposed cholera victims, and is credited with popularizing the safety coffin. Via Wikimedia Commons.  

An early advance in graveyard tech was the safety coffin. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, people feared being buried alive. The fear was so palpable that it drove a number of creative, albeit somewhat bizarre and hilarious solutions for burying the problem if and when it arose. Of the available options, the most famous example was the bell setup whereby a chord attached to a bell was extended into the coffin. Should a corpse not really be a corpse and wake up in the nightmarish situation of being buried alive, the non-deceased could ring the bell to attract attention and be released. Alternatives to the bell included flags, fireworks, and vaults.

A variation on this was the “portable death chamber,” a body box with a viewing window through which a crew of monitors could actually ensure that a person was decaying. As described in the book Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, “If there were clear signs of putrefaction, a trapdoor in the bottom of the death chamber would be triggered, and the corpse would fall down into a previously dug grave underneath it.”

VIRTUAL LIFE AFTER DEATH 

New technologies to store information, photos, and other forms of data have begun to make the typical tombstone inscription look as archaic as the floppy disk. No longer are people limited to their name, date of death, and a contrived phrase; their entire life histories can now be queued up via smartphone.

Much like the safety coffin, there are numerous iterations of this theme. Earlier attempts to integrate data storage with tombstones as a form of memorial were laughable—clunky iPad-esque screens garishly attached to a love one’s marker. But now we have sleeker alternatives. When scanned, QR codes, attached via sticker or on its own tiny separate stone, whisk cemetery visitors to a memorial website complete with, well, really whatever you want. Another option is the E-TOMB, which keeps your social media presence alive long after you cease to be. There's also Neshama, the so-called Facebook for dead people

VENDING MACHINES FOR THE DEAD

In Japan, burials are expensive. A few years ago, Tokyo saw plots going for $100,000 a head. And given that a large percentage of Japanese are cremated upon death, such expenses seem superfluous.

Enter the urn warehouse. Instead of spending big money to bury loved ones beneath the ground, some grieving families in Japan have instead interred their family members’ remains in technologically-advanced warehouses. Should they wish to pay their respects, an authorized family member scans an identifying card. Once their card is recognized, a robo-arm finds and grabs the appropriate urn from storage and brings it to a special mourning room. In a way, it’s sort of like a vending machine for the dead.

These solutions may not be appropriate to you (I doubt you need a “portable death chamber”) or they simply may not appeal (I certainly don’t want my some of my more egregious tweets being available to anyone who happens to walk by my future grave). But these and more options are out there, which says more about our relationship to our own mortality than it does about our personal preferences.

More on death, technology, and the macabre:

Navigate America's Most Famous Cemetery With a New App

So We're Crowdfunding Our Funerals Online Now

Eleanore

Eleanore

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