What Was the Importance of the Necropolis in History? 

A necropolis is an elaborate and beautiful ancient burial site created to honor passed loved ones. Today, the necropoleis of ancient cities like Alexandria, Cerveteri, and Cairo have become archaeological sites on par with the Parisian catacombs, giving us insights into the remarkable lives these ancient peoples lived.

Whether a necropolis of ancient days or a memorial diamond, the intent of these burial traditions remains the same: to honor a life well-lived and ensure their memory is never forgotten. 

Ancient necropoleis remind us that respecting those who have passed is a centuries old tradition, and generations of humans are united by our experiences with grief and healing. No matter when we’ve lived, burial traditions that display our love and affection for those we have lost help us along our healing journeys and celebrate the remarkable diamonds in our lives.

What Is a Necropolis?

The English word “necropolis” has roots found in the Greek word “nekropolis,” which means “city of the dead.” Necro or nekro means death, while polis refers to a city.

Essentially, a necropolis is a city erected to house the remains of deceased loved ones in large tomb monuments. It is much more than a graveyard inside a city or simply a large cemetery. A necropolis was a destination, a site, and a city to behold when they were used in ancient times.

Each necropolis was unique because its art forms and monuments were specific to the culture. Every ancient necropolis and its ruins provide a glimpse of the civilization it served, from the Ancient Greeks to the major Etruscan cities. 

Where Did the Necropolis Originate?

Necropoles were sites common in antiquity, so tracing the origin of these wonders remains a difficult task. 

However, the Giza Necropolis of Ancient Egypt is one of the oldest to date. Perhaps the most spectacular of burial places can be found in this necropolis. The Pyramids of Giza are named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and are the burial place of the Pharaohs. 

Why Is Understanding a Necropolis Important?

Then and now, humanity has come together in difficult times of grief to lay our incredible loved ones to rest. These memorials provide us with a sense of closure and an opportunity to show our respect for the impact and legacy of those we have lost.

The necropolis is an example of how ancient civilizations memorialized the people closest to them. Today, their existence is a testament to the deep love ancient peoples held for the remarkable humans in their lives.

Still, why was a necropolis so extravagant? What was the purpose of these cities of the dead in ancient times?

The ruins of necropoleis today reveal the culture and history of ancient people, helping their impact to live on even thousands of years in the future. The tombs and structures that were built to honor those passed reveal styles of art and architecture that were characteristic of each civilization. 

In Egypt, their necropolises gifted us with the pyramids, as well as murals and hieroglyphics printed on tombs that reveal details about Ancient Egyptian culture. Sculptures found in the Kerameikos Necropolis tell us about the prevalence of pottery in this ancient civilization. 

A necropolis can also reveal details about religious practices in a civilization. The Egyptians’ belief in an afterlife can be seen in their extravagant gravesites as well as the burial of their possessions. Their desire for comfort in the afterlife can be seen in their grandiose burials. 

These pieces of their daily lives have proven invaluable and connected us through the ages, showing us that we are all chapters within the same greater story.

Why a Necropolis Is More Than a Graveyard

While both a necropolis and a graveyard are places of rest for lost loved ones, there are many things that make a necropolis unique from today’s graveyard: 

  • A necropolis is ancient. Necropoleis are characteristic of antiquity. They are part of ancient civilizations and hold rich history and artifacts. Cemeteries and graveyards are modern-day burial places, generally marked with tombstones that display the name of the deceased and dates of birth and death. 
  • A necropolis is immense. The word necropolis means “city of the dead,” implying its vastness. One of the most well-known necropoleis is the Giza Necropolis. This necropolis is a vast expanse consisting of grand pyramids and structures such as the Great Sphinx. Cemeteries and graveyards are often much smaller in scale and are typically located within a city. 
  • A necropolis is extravagant. While graveyards and cemeteries are home to a variety of tombstones, a necropolis is made of extravagant monuments and structures. These structures point to the diverse culture and architectural styles of ancient civilizations, while many modern-day tombstones are similar in structure across cultures. 

The Egyptian Necropolises

No discussion of the ancient necropolises would be complete without the beautiful structures left by the Egyptians. From the Pyramids of Giza to Saqqara Necropolis in Memphis, these monuments are a testament to the love and respect this society held for its people, even in death.

Giza Necropolis

The Giza Necropolis of Ancient Egypt is probably the most well-known of all historical necropolises. This is because the Giza Necropolis is the location of one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Pyramids of Giza. These pyramids were built between 2550 to 2490 BC as monuments to house the tombs of dead Pharaohs.

The Giza Necropolis also includes the Great Sphinx of Giza. The Great Sphinx was crafted and carved from a mass of limestone. Created with the body of a lion and the head of a Pharaoh, the Sphinx represented the divine power of the Pharaohs and was created to protect the pyramids and the tombs inside.

The Egyptians did not believe death to be the end. They prepared lavishly for the afterlife, often being buried with jewels and expensive possessions. The Great Pyramids glorified the Egyptian view of life after death. 

Buried in the Great Pyramids are the Pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. Other Pharaohs have been buried in the Valley of the Kings, located in the necropolis of Thebes.

Thebes Necropoleis

The Necropolis in Thebes is home to the Valley of the Kings. This became the burial site of most pharaohs of the 18th through the 20th dynasties. Buried here are queens, high priests, and royalty. Tombs in this burial site were created from limestone and painted with murals. The Valley of the Kings has approximately 60 tombs that have been discovered. 

Saqqara Necropolis

The Saqqara Necropolis has the largest number of Egyptian tombs in Memphis, Egypt. This necropolis was the burial site of royal and non-royal alike during the first dynasty. It is also home to pyramids built by Egyptian kings. 

Roman and Greek Necropoli

While the Egyptian necropolises are among the most well-known and well-regarded landmarks of ancient times, the magnificence of Ancient Rome is not to be forgotten. 

The Vatican Necropolis

The Vatican Necropolis can be found between 5 and 12 meters below St. Peter’s Basilica, an underground burial site. This necropolis is dated back to the founding of the Roman Empire. This is the burial place of one of the 12 disciples, Peter, in addition to many loved ones dating back generations. 

Kerameikos 

Kerameikos is a necropolis found in Athens, Greece. This necropolis has been used as burial grounds for centuries, with the first burials taking place during the Bronze Age.

The Kerameikos necropolis originated when a wall was built in 487 BC during the Greco-Persian Wars. The wall divided Kerameikos into inner and outer Kerameikos, and it housed the marketplace inside. Soldiers who died in battle were buried outside the wall to honor their sacrifice.

The region where Keramikos is located was known for high-quality clay deposits, earning it the name “potter’s quarters.” It is not surprising, then, that excavations have uncovered the use of sculptures to mark burial sites. Common to necropolises across the world are extravagant structures marking the burial of an individual, helping the memories of these ancient peoples live on longer than the Ancient Greeks could have ever dreamed. 

Other Necropoles Across the Globe

From Europe to the Middle East, necropoles have been found across the world, giving us insights into our ancestors and the people they held dear. Take a look at some of the most notable necropoles outside of Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Glasgow Necropolis

Located in Glasgow, Scotland, is a necropolis where about 50,000 people are buried, and 3,500 tombs have been erected. This necropolis is more reminiscent of a modern-day burial site, dating back to 1833. Monuments spanning various architectural styles can be viewed here, their majesty marking memorials for merchants and royalty alike.

Unlike the Egyptian pyramids, this burial site spans multiple faiths and socio-economic standings, creating equality in death.

The Bridge of Sighs is a well-known structure found at Glasgow necropolis, traveled as part of funeral processions when the necropolis first opened. Its name underlines the shared grief and the healing journey of memorial sites that we value still today.

Necropolis of Iraq

The Wadi-us-Salaam is considered one of the largest necropolises in the world. Unlike a typical necropolis of antiquity, the Wadi-us-Salaam is still used for burials even in the present day. Its name means “The Valley of Peace.” This necropolis is located in Najaf, Iraq and is sacred to Shia Muslims. 

Shia Muslim traditions heavily emphasize this burial site. This sect of Islam believes that being buried at this necropolis can promise that they will be raised from the dead on judgment day. This burial site is also believed to be the place where 70,000 prophets have been laid to rest. 

Makli Necropolis

To this day, the largest necropolis remains a burial site in the Sindh province of Pakistan. It is called the Makli Necropolis which can be translated as “City of Silence”. The Makli Necropolis is home to over 125,000 graves and spans over 10 kilometers, surpassing all other burial sites of its kind. 

Buried here are many Sufi Muslim saints, philosophers, and royalty. Brick and stone monuments pay tribute to the lives of many notable figures in Sufism. This necropolis also hosts a mosque that becomes a holy place for worship, honoring both the living and our ancestors. 

The Modern-Day Necropoleis

While graveyards and cemeteries are familiar modern-day burial grounds, the necropolis has become best known for its longevity. A true modern equivalent to the necropolis would share its ability to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed throughout the generations, honoring their memory for centuries to come.

While modern burial is a wonderful way to memorialize a remarkable life well-lived, a memorial diamond echoes the necropolis’s ability to last through the generations. Only the strongest stone on Earth could compete with the stone cities that housed pharaohs, prophets, and peasants alike. 

What Are Memorial Diamonds?

Just as a diamond is created with heat and pressure in the earth, Eterneva replicates this process to create uniquely beautiful, authentic diamonds. 

We begin with a process called carbon purification. This is where the carbon from ashes or hair is extracted and used as the seed for your one-of-a-kind diamond. 

We then grow the diamond in a process that duplicates the growing conditions of a diamond in the Earth’s mantle. With intense heat and pressure, your loved one’s ashes begin to take shape as a brilliant representation of the brightness of their remarkable lives. 

All remains are unique, which is why our scientists work with outstanding precision to determine the exact heat and pressure necessary to form beauty from ashes. Our team is unified in the mission of handling every story and the memory of every person with care and tenderness. 

Memorial Diamonds as a Modern Necropolis

The Eterneva diamond-forming process was invented to celebrate and honor our loved ones who have passed. Uniquely crafted and beautiful, an Eterneva diamond is a modern-day, small-scale necropolis. Each diamond is unique to the loved one whom it represents, just as each intricate monument and extravagant structure of a necropolis was created to honor a life well-lived.

Eterneva’s team takes great care in learning about your loved one and joining you in the healing process as you create a one-of-a-kind memorial stone.

Your diamond will also be set in personalized jewelry if this is what you choose. There are also a variety of jewelry settings you can select. You can also work with our expert jewelers to design a setting that is right for you. Each diamond will also be engraved with a personal inscription of your choosing. 

Set into stunning rings and necklaces, your loved ones will always be literally near to your heart. This heirloom can then be passed through your family for generations, lasting as long as the necropolises of ancient times.

From Antiquity to Contemporary Life

Laying a loved one to rest is part of the healing process and a way to honor their life and the legacy they left behind. 

It is important to consider your loved one’s wishes when considering burial. What will represent their life well? What will help keep their memory alive? Choosing to make diamonds from ashes can have lasting significance and provide comfort to an aching heart. 

Carrying the memory of your loved one with you continuously, in the form of jewelry, will remind you of the brilliance of their life and the warmth of their smile. 

Studying how ancient peoples have honored those who have passed gives us a better understanding of our modern-day burial traditions. A necropolis was an extravagant and elaborate creation of antiquity, paying respect to those laid to rest.  

Sources:

How Diamonds are Formed | Cape Town Diamond Museum 

Introduction to Giza | Harvard University

Kerameikos, the necropolis of Athens | Greek News Agenda   

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