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A Few Feet Under

According to Dr.Harmon K. Root, in his book entitled 'The People's Medical Lighthouse' published in 1852, there were some offensive burial proceedures occuring. He first makes light of how the secrets of the ancients in embalming their dead remained a mystery. Then he speaks about how some of his contemporaries have found a few formulas for embalming that have met with some limited success in slowing the decay process in the dead. He further goes on to relate how a century or even half a century prior to his time had seen the custom, in Europe and America, of burying the dead within the center of a booming city. This had led to the effluvium, or the odorous fumes which is given off by decaying matter, to permiate the area. Why so? Since the custom at the time was to bury only a few feet under the ground, which would then be soft, and according to Dr.Root the coffins would often time burst do to build up of gases. But perhaps it was due to ill regard to workmanship or maybe no coffin at all, who knows. However there was growing recognition that diesese could be obtained from things related to the dead, and harmful results could come from such, so much so that Dr.Root recommened to cities, even pleading to the city of New York, to bury the dead outside of the city, in a more secluded manner. Well he also addressed the popular custom of burying on the hillside. Dr. Root had observed how the grass would often times be dead due to the wash down of the high amounts of carbonic acid which was produced by the decaying bodies. Just one more thing in his opinion that needed to change. It was slowly being shown that the need for sanitation was needed, esp in a large city like New York and that these matters may have finally been addressed before better embalming and burial techniques ensued. Of course now that really isnt an issue so we may well walk to a graveyard with the confines of a large city, but if you visit some of the older rural towns you may still see evidence of the approval of Dr.Root's ideas on the matter, such as my home town here. Down the highway you are traveling, only to see the town's graveyard and then the "Welcome to...." sign for our little country town.

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