Archeologists find earliest evidence of flowers at gravesites

Adorning the graves of loved ones with flowers has been a tradition for many years, but it's hard to say exactly where and when the practice originated. However, a recent discovery made on Israel's Mount Carmel could offer some clues. Archeologists found the remains of a couple buried together along with imprints of stems and blossoms, indicating they could potentially have been interred with flowers after they died – more than 12,000 years ago, according to National Geographic.

National Geographic Photograph courtesy E. Gerstein
Photo credit: National Geographic Photograph courtesy E. Gerstein

Who are they?

Experts believe the couple found buried in the mountains of Israel were members of the Natufian culture, which existed between 15,000 and 11,000 years ago in the area that currently comprises Isreal, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. There has been speculation that ancient civilizations used flowers to honor the dead, but these recent findings are arguably the oldest evidence to support the notion. Aside from indicating the Natufian culture used flowers, the grave highlights the fact that members of the civilization likely held ceremonies.

"They didn't just place the bodies inside the graves and leave," he said. "We have to envision a colorful ceremony that maybe included dancing, singing, and eating. They may have hunted a few animals and had a big meal around the graves and then threw bones or meat inside."

What this means?

Although these findings offer the earliest glimpse of flower-adorned funeral sites, experts say it does not suggest the practice continued from then up until now. It could have stopped and started several times throughout the proceeding millennia. The practice has certainly changed considerably since then, as scientists speculate the flowers used were likely mint, sage and other aromatic plants, very unlike the plants that are used today, according to NBC News.

Today, friends and family members of the deceased have many different options at their disposal when it comes to laying flowers on their graves. Some flowers have a specific meaning. For instance, marigolds, though cheery in appearance, often are used to symbolize grief. Additionally, they bloom every year and are relatively easy to take care of. Other popular flowers used to adorn graves include poppies and periwinkles. Mourners may also want to consider daylilies, hosta and bleeding heart, all of which can flourish in shady conditions.

Funeral service flowers
Vivid Recollections Funeral Basket of Flowers

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