History, Types, and Materials of Cremation Urns

History, Types, and Materials of Cremation Urns

From Zain Liaquat

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The use of cremation urns dates back thousands of years. Some of the earliest examples were found in China around 7000 BC.

Archaeologists have uncovered ancient urns in many parts of the world, including Italy, Ireland, Hungary, and Greece, showing that cremation and the storage of ashes in vessels were widespread practices throughout human history.

In the Bronze Age, cremation became especially common in regions like Northern Europe and the British Isles. Cremated remains were generally placed in decorated pottery urns.

The Romans favored cremation, too, storing ashes in elaborate marble or glass urns in large tombs called columbaria.

While the rise of Christianity led to a decline in cremation for a period, the practice re-emerged in the late 19th century.

Since then, cremation has become more popular, and as a result, there are different kinds of urns on the market today.

 Types of Cremation Urns

There are many different types of urns to choose from based on the intended use and personal preferences:

1. Standard adult urns hold the ashes of one person and come in many materials, colors, and designs.

2. Companion urns are larger and can accommodate the ashes of two people, often a married couple.

3. Keepsake urns are small and hold a portion of the ashes so family members can each keep some of the cremated remains.

4. Biodegradable urns are designed for scattering ashes or green burial and are made from environmentally-friendly materials.

5. Infant and child urns are smaller and often customized.

6. Pet urns are available in many sizes for various types of animals.

 Materials Used in Urns

Cremation urns can be made from almost any material, but some of the most common include:


     Ceramic – a traditional, durable option that comes in many colors and styles


     Metal – such as brass, aluminum, copper, or stainless steel, usually less expensive


     Wood – a classic choice available in many species like oak, walnut, cherry or maple


     Stone – cultured marble, granite, or natural stone can be carved into urns


     Glass – hand-blown glass urns are unique and decorative


     Biodegradable – urns made from paper, sand, gelatin, cornstarch or other plant matter will naturally decompose over time


Cremation urns are a meaningful way to remember a loved one who has passed away. Having the ashes in a beautiful, personalized container can help you feel better and be their reminder. 

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