20 things you didn’t know about death.

  1. The practice of burying the dead may date back 350,000 years, as evidenced by a 45-foot-deep pit in Atapuerca, Spain, filled with the fossils of 27 hominids of the species Homo heidelbergensis, a possible ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans.
  2. Never say die: There are at least 200 euphemisms for death, including “to be in Abraham’s bosom,” “just add maggots,” and “sleep with the Tribbles” (a Star Trek favorite).
  3. No American has died of old age since 1951.
  4. That was the year the government eliminated that classification on death certificates.
  5. The trigger of death, in all cases, is lack of oxygen. Its decline may prompt muscle spasms, or the “agonal phase,” from the Greek word agon, or contest.
  6. Within three days of death, the enzymes that once digested your dinner begin to eat you. Ruptured cells become food for living bacteria in the gut, which release enough noxious gas to bloat the body and force the eyes to bulge outward.
  7. So much for recycling: Burials in America deposit 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid, formaldehyde, methanol, and ethanol, into the soil each year. Cremation pumps dioxins, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide into the air.
  8. Alternatively . . . A Swedish company, Promessa, will freeze-dry your body in liquid nitrogen, pulverize it with high-frequency vibrations, and seal the resulting powder in a cornstarch coffin. They claim this “ecological burial” will decompose in 6 to 12 months.
  9. Zoroastrians in India leave out the bodies of the dead to be consumed by vultures.
  10. The vultures are now dying off after eating cattle carcasses dosed with diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory used to relieve fever in livestock.
  11. Queen Victoria insisted on being buried with the bathrobe of her long-dead husband, Prince Albert, and a plaster cast of his hand.
  12. If this doesn’t work, we’re trying in vitro! In Madagascar, families dig up the bones of dead relatives and parade them around the village in a ceremony called famadihana. The remains are then wrapped in a new shroud and reburied. The old shroud is given to a newly married, childless couple to cover the connubial bed.
  13.  During a railway expansion in Egypt in the 19th century, construction companies unearthed so many mummies that they used them as fuel for locomotives.
  14. Well, yeah, there’s a slight chance this could backfire: English philosopher Francis Bacon, a founder of the scientific method, died in 1626 of pneumonia after stuffing a chicken with snow to see if cold would preserve it.
  15. For organs to form during embryonic development, some cells must commit suicide. Without such programmed cell death, we would all be born with webbed feet, like ducks.
  16. Waiting to exhale: In 1907 a Massachusetts doctor conducted an experiment with a specially designed deathbed and reported that the human body lost 21 grams upon dying. This has been widely held as fact ever since. It’s not.
  17.  Buried alive: In 19th-century Europe there was so much anecdotal evidence that living people were mistakenly declared dead that cadavers were laid out in “hospitals for the dead” while attendants awaited signs of putrefaction.
  18. Eighty percent of people in the United States die in a hospital.
  19. If you can’t make it here . . . More people commit suicide in New York City than are murd
    ered.
  20. It is estimated that 100 billion people have died since humans began.

things you didn't know about death

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Comments

  • ketemphor says:

    The suicide rate for the entire US is higher than the murder rate. (~5 per 100,000 for murder, ~11 per 100,000 for suicide)

    The burning mummies thing is a myth: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/020222.html

  • david says:

    re: 13 During a railway expansion in Egypt in the 19th century, construction companies unearthed so many mummies that they used them as fuel for locomotives.

    Actually, this is incorrect. This is in reference to Mark Twain, who in The Innocents Abroad (1869) writes, “The fuel [Egyptian railroaders] use for the locomotive is composed of mummies three thousand years old, purchased by the ton or by the graveyard for that purpose, and . . . sometimes one hears the profane engineer call out pettishly, ‘D–n these plebeians, they don’t burn worth a cent–pass out a King!'” Lest anyone fail to realize it’s a joke, Twain then adds, “Stated to me for a fact. I only tell it as I got it. I am willing to believe it. I can believe anything.”

  • stefan says:

    ..Wow, a 100 billion people in just 6000 years? That sounds pretty extreme :mrgreen:

  • Dee says:

    There is some truth to the statement at least. The Arabs of old both used the mummies for fuel (cooking etc) and it was used as curative for ailments and virility. Mumia or something of the like it was called. (yes that would still be cannibalism huh?

  • cara says:

    That last one can’t be true, because there are more people alive today-around 6.6 billion, than number of people who have ever lived. That pretty much rules out reincarnation though doesn’t it? hehe 😛

  • DS says:

    Re: Buried alive

    Current popular explanations for the origin of the phrase “graveyard shift” reference the 19th century problem of accidentally burying people who were still alive. To prevent this from happening, the story goes, caskets were equipped with a bell-ringing device enabling a waking “corpse” to notify the world that they were no longer dead. The graveyard attendants who remained vigilant throughout the day and night worked the graveyard shift.

    Cheers,

  • Ryan Graf says:

    How about cool things you can do even after death?

    Going out with a bang!

  • jenie=) says:

    No American has died of old age since 1951?! This made me come to thinking, is this just in America? Is the reason behind this everyone dies really of an ailment/accident and no natural death, or because since 50’s medicine have found out that there is ALWAYS a reason to death?

    love your posts! hope it’s ok if i link you. want to be here again, honest!
    .-= jenie=)´s last blog ..YOUR POTENTIALS =-.

  • jakki says:

    No American has died of old age since 1951? I declare bullshit; here’s why. There is no possible way you went through death records of every citizen since then, and my great grandmother Lehman passed away of old age at the age of 97. In Clovis, California. (United states) jackarse.

  • irinajordan says:

    Another fascinating fact about death and remembrance: Hair, a symbol of life, has been associated with honoring loved ones in many cultures. Egyptian tomb paintings portray scenes showing pharaohs and queens exchanging hair balls as tokens of enduring love. In Mexico, Indian women kept hair combings in a special jar, which was buried with their bodies so that the soul would not become tired looking for missing parts and delay its passage to the other world.

    During the Civil War as the soldiers left home to join the fight, they would leave a lock of hair with their families. Upon the soldier’s passing, the hair was often made into a piece of mourning jewelry or placed in a locket.

  • eggnostriva says:

    The entire concept of the wake was to lay the body out for a few days in case it did indeed wake.

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