A Tour of History's Smart Graveyards

A Tour of History’s Smart Graveyards

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.


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.”


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 social media presence alive lengthy after you stop to be. There’s additionally Neshama, the so-known as Facebook for dead people.


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.