Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Familial and Common Graves

From : Omertaa.org
"Familial and Common Graves When a person dies in Malta they end up either in a family or a communal grave. Family graves are seen as more respectable. Common graves (qabar komuni) are for people of a lower socio-economy class (it costs 200 euro/1000 Maltese pounds for a family grave), or for those who are not religious (Galea 2011). A family grave will normally have compartments for four or five coffins, but it can hold up to six bodies. There is space below for bones, which are put into plastic bags during “cleaning” by cemetery workers (Sean 2011). In the past flour bags were used instead. Each set of bones is then put into a box which is stored in the family grave. The boxes used to be wooden or tin, but now they use plastic (Victor 2011; and Vincent 2011). From the Hypogeum to the catacombs, communal graves have been a part of Maltese history. Graves of this nature seem to make the most sense in urbanized areas where space creates an issue. Although this is the case in cities such as Valetta, it does not apply to all of Malta, and is even less relevant in Gozo. It must therefore hold importance in the collective conscious of the people. One explanation is that a burial of this nature delivers the dead from “the isolation in which he was plunged since his death, and reunites his body with those of his ancestors” (Hertz 1960:54). Hertz is referring to a body’s transition from a temporary to a final burial place, but I believe that this is also relevant when discussing communal, at least familial, burials. Common graves may not be as respected as family graves because they contain the bodies of the poor and secular, but it may also be a result of the subconscious idea that the dead buried there are alone. This may be why, after two years, the bones from common graves may be removed and stored in crypts, or thrown down wells located on the cemetery grounds, while the bones from family graves cannot. "