Tower of Silence

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 The idea of burying the deceased in the earth seems like the logical route to take, but not all cultures believe that this is the best way to go. As history has taught us, there are some very interesting alternatives, to say the least.

Zoroastrianism was once one of the major religions of the world. Its practitioners believed that not only was a dead body spiritually unclean, but that a corpse demon, or nasu daeva, would rush in and inhabit the body upon death.

So instead of burying the bodies in the clean earth, they came up with another idea.

This is known as a tower of silence.
Beginning in the ninth century, these structures were constructed by the Zoroastrians all over Asia and the Middle East for the purpose of disposing of the dead. They considered the dead unclean and unfit for disposal in the earth or by fire, both of which were considered sacred.

Unlike a tomb or mausoleum, which is meant to preserve the dead, the tower of silence is more like an amphitheater where the dead are laid out as an offering to the sky.

Built around a central well, the outermost ring is for men, the middle one for women, and the innermost for children.

Once the dead are laid out, birds arrive and begin to pick the flesh from the corpses. With the aid of the elements, the corpses are soon completely stripped.

The remains, now purified, are then pushed into the central well, where they eventually break down and rejoin the earth.

Believe it or not, towers of silence are still used today in places like Iran and in parts of India. However, for both public health and environmental reasons, their use is declining.

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