Necrophobia is the fear of dead bodies (necro: relating to death, phobia: extreme fear of). Like most phobias, whether it be the phobia of clowns or of heights, is an irrational fear. Once the body is dead, and I am meaning the second the blood stops pumping, unless certain measures are taken (a defibrillator for example), there is no chance of it coming back to life. But necrophobia is not just the fear of the dead, this fear can be of funerals, coffins, cemeteries; anything relating to death. It may sound silly when explained, but silliness could not have been further in the minds of those with this fear when dealing with the dead. Some would place huge boulders on the body to pin it down, some would spear the body to keep it in place, some would disembowel and dismember their dead, and in the case of Albert I, in 1225 his body was boiled and defleshed.
As for the earliest known method to keep the dead in their graves comes to us from the ancient Greeks; who feared zombies. What the ancient Greeks would use were large amphora (“two handled ceramic vessel that was generally used for storing wine and olive oil”) which were “presumably intended to pin the individual to the grave and prevent it from seeing or rising.” They were also the first to use huge stones to weigh a body down as was seen when a burial of a child was found. That said there is evidence in the form of tablets inscribed with magical spells that some wished to resurrect the dead and have them do their bidding.
Long before the ancient Greeks existed a culture and way of life that did not fear the dead. This culture belonged to the ancient Egyptians. In one of my earliest blogs (http://anthropologicalconcepts.weebly.com/blog/-are-you-my-mummy) I described how the process of mummification took place. You can argue that the ancient Egyptians feared their dead because of the way they prepared their dead; from disemboweling them to wrapping them in tight linen. But we have to remember in the time before being wrapped there were priests who had to come daily to “feed the soul” of the dead pharaoh. Not only that, but when they were entombed in their grave, it was not seen as a sign of “beware,” but it was a sign for celebration. Celebration because their pharaoh was going into the afterlife and because to the ancient Egyptians their pharaoh was the embodiment of a god.
Now, why after give or take 2100 years after the ancient Greek's necrophobia ways are we still afraid of the dead? I mean, in early Anglo-saxson history, they would behead their dead before burying them, and this was a time between 410 – 660 C.E. So why do we, some 1356 years later still fear our dead. Our fear may not be as extensive as to behead our dead or weigh them down with large stones, but we still fear our dead. The reason being, and which I think it always has been, the dead remind us of our mortality. They remind us that we will eventually expire...we will eventually die.
Please feel free to comment on what you thought of the blog, or other physical anthropological subjects you would like me to cover.