Neatorama » Blog Archive » 10 Most Fascinating Tombs in the World

Throughout the history of human civilization, different cultures mourn and treat the dead differently. Some, like Tibetan Buddhists, have no use for burials as they dispose the dead by feeding corpses to vultures or by burning them in funeral pyres. Most cultures, however, show their respect by burying the dead, sometimes in complex and ornate tombs, crypts, and catacombs.

This article takes a look at ten of the most fascinating final resting places around the world, from the largest prehistoric burial mound in Europe to the the tombs of pharaohs to the most beautiful mausoleum in the world:

Newgrange

The burial mound of Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland is definitely one of the most impressive prehistoric monuments in the world. Build between 3300 BC - 2900 BC, it is the also the world’s oldest surviving building (it’s older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt).


Newgrange burial mound. Image: mike nl [Flickr]


The wall of Newgrange. Image: Barbara y Eugenio [Flickr]


The engraved slab in front of Newgrange’s entrance. Image: mike nl [Flickr]

Tana Toraja

The Toraja people in Sulawesi, Indonesia, have what is probably the most complex funeral ritual in the world. When someone dies, the funeral is attended by a lot of people and can last for days! But that’s not the strange part - this is: the funeral ceremony is often held weeks, months, or even years after the death (to give the family of the deceased time to raise enough money for expenses).


Toraja cave tombs with balconies, filled with tau tau. Image: Kaeru [Flickr]


"In Tana Toraja, everything revolves around death. The graves can be very sophisticated yet sometimes, long after the coffins are destroyed by time, people gently place bones along natural cave ‘racks’. Often, the bones are offered cigarettes or various offerings. This is supposed to prevent dead ancestors from bringing bad luck and otherwise making the lives of the living miserable."
Image: phitar [Flickr]

Westminster Abbey

The gothic church Westminster Abbey in London, United Kingdom was established by Benedictine monks in the tenth century (and rebuilt in the 13th century by King Henry III) - since then it has evolved into both the coronation church for English royalty and the final resting place of monarchs.


Westminster Abbey. Image: Inetours


Newton’s grave at Westminster Abbey. Image: Sacred Destination

Giza Necropolis

There are more than 100 pyramids in Egypt, with the largest and most famous being the complex of pyramids in Giza Necropolis, Cairo, Egypt. This complex consists of the Great Pyramid of Giza (tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu or Cheops), the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Great Sphinx statue, as well as several other smaller satellite pyramids.


The Pyramids of Giza. Image: liber [Flickr]


The Great Sphinx. Image: ironmanix [Flickr]


The Pyramids of Giza are not too far from the urban sprawl of Cairo.
Image: graspnext [Flickr]

Valley of the Kings

Even if you don’t know much about the Valley of the Kings, a burial ground of ancient Egyptian pharaohs and one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, chances are you know about one of its occupants: King Tut and the Curse of the Pharaohs that accompany his grave.


In 1922, Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered and opened the tomb of Tutankhamen - despite warnings that "Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the King." Lord Carnarvon, the funder of the expedition, was the first to die: he was bitten by a mosquito and later accidentally lashed the bite while shaving. His wound became infected and he died of blood poisoning.


Valley of the Kings. Image: Shelby PDX [Flickr]


The tomb of King Tut in the Valley of the Kings. Image: Hajor [wikipedia]


Tomb of Ramses III in Luxor, Valley of the Kings. Image: Peter J. Bubenik [wikipedia]


Sarcophagus of the Pharaoh Merenptah in the KV8 tomb of the Valley of the Kings.
Image: Hajor [wikipedia]


Luxor Temple. Image: mike nl [Flickr]

Catacombs of Paris

Officially called les carrières de Paris or "the quarries of Paris," the Catacombs of Paris is a network of underground tunnels and rooms that used to be Roman-era limestone quarries.


Catacombs of Paris. Bones from the former Magdalene cemetery, deposited in 1844 in the western ossuary (bone repository) and transferred to the catacombs in 1859. Image: Vlastimil Juricek [wikipedia]


Wall of bones in the Catacombs of Paris. Image: Ivan Paganacci [Flickr]

Terracota Army

In 1974, local farmers in Xi’an, China, discovered a vast underground complex of mausoleum while drilling for water. They had serendipitously stumbled upon the burial ground of Qin Shi Huangdi, the First Emperor and the unifier of China.


Terracota army. Image: MichaelTyler [Flickr]


Image: mkools [Flickr]


Each face and pose of the Terracota army soldier is distinct from the others. Image: Peter Morgan [wikipedia]

Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

When the Capuchin monastery in Palermo, Italy, outgrew its original cemetery in the 16th century, monks excavated the catacomb below it and began a bizarre tradition that lasted until the 19th century.


Capuchin Catacombs. Image: deadgoodbooks [Flickr]


Mummies on the wall of the Capuchin Catacombs. Image: Kircher Society

Sedlec Ossuary

The Sedlec Ossuary resides in a small Roman Catholic chapel in Sedlec, Czech Republic. If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t have guessed that inside the unassuming building is an ossuary containing about 40,000 human skeletons artistically arranged to form decorations, chandeliers, and furnishings!


Little would you suspect what lies inside … Image: currybet [Flickr]


Entrance to the Sedlec Ossuary. Image: Curious Expeditions [Flickr]


The chandelier at Sedlec Ossuary. Image: B10m [Flickr]


The Schwarzenberg family’s coat of arms, done with at least one of every
bone in the body. Image: goldberg [Flickr]

Taj Mahal

No article on tombs is complete without the Taj Mahal, a magnificent mausoleum in Agra, India. The Taj Mahal was built in 1631 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was devastated when his wife Mumtaz Mahal died during childbirth. Grief stricken, he ordered that the most beautiful mausoleum be built.


Taj Mahal from a distance. Image: Christopher Chan [Flickr]


The Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Image: micbaun [Flickr]


The tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Image: William Donelson [wikipedia]

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