Historians have said that most of what humans know about ancient cultures is based on funerary artifacts. Certainly no other example of mortuary culture stands out in modern consciousness than the Egyptian pyramids.

Qin Shih Huang's Tomb

Until 1974, thousands of statues remained to be unearthed on the archaeological site at Shaanxi province, where Qin Shih Huang (c. 221–210 B.C.E.), the first unifier of China, was buried.

Quinlan, Karen Ann

On April 15, 1975, Karen Ann Quinlan, seventeen years old, presumably ingested barbiturates and alcohol at a party. She became comatose and experienced two periods of apnea (absence of breathing) of about fifteen minutes each, which resulted in irreversible brain damage.

Rahner, Karl

The Jesuit priest Karl Rahner is widely regarded to have been one of the leading Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. Rahner's early writings on death were published at a time when academic theology gave little serious consideration to the topic.


The concept of reincarnation, that of an individual dying and then being reborn into another body, has existed in various religions for at least 3,000 years. The belief most likely arose independently in different areas, and this was followed by periods in which the concept spread to other regions.

Replacement Children

When a family suffers the death of a child, the reverberations can extend beyond the immediate period of bereavement. When a child is born into a family that has suffered such a loss, there is concern that the new child might be compromised in his or her development.


The term resuscitation, as used by medical personnel, means both trying to revive those who have gone into cardiac arrest (cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR) and any intense intervention that will prevent imminent death. Such interventions usually include helping people get oxygen and breathe, restoring the amount of fluid and blood in their system, keeping their hearts beating effectively, and halting any process that is interfering with their ability to survive.

Revolutionaries and "Death for the Cause!"

Willingness to die for a religious or political cause has long been recognized as a key measure of an activist's commitment. To supporters of the activist's cause, such sacrifice amounts to martyrdom, whereas critics are more likely to view it as a triumph of irrational extremism.

Right-to-Die Movement

In 1976 the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Karen Ann Quinlan, and in 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Nancy Beth Cruzan.

Rigor Mortis and Other Postmortem Changes

Once the heart stops beating, blood collects in the most dependent parts of the body (livor mortis), the body stiffens (rigor mortis), and the body begins to cool (algor mortis).

Rites of Passage

Rites of passage are special rituals societies employ to assist their members at key times of biographical change. These life transitions follow a recognizable pattern of behavior in many cultures; for example, babies are given a name and social identity, youths enter adulthood or marry, others retire, gain particular qualifications such as degrees or enter particular professions, or pass from the world of the living to the world of the dead.

Royalty, British

The large-scale public reactions that followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on August 31, 1997, and that of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on March 30, 2002, illustrate the longstanding tendency of prominent British royal deaths to stir an emotional response from millions who had never personally been acquainted with the deceased. Royal deaths have also evoked important forms of ritual and symbolic commemoration that are significant both in the context of the evolution of British civil religion and national identity, and in shaping and representing wider social and cultural responses to death.


Prayer is a form of communication with a deity or other spiritual being. Words addressed to a deity usually offer praise or seek guidance, blessing, forgiveness, fertility, victory, or protection.

Safety Regulations

Safety regulations are defined as mandatory requirements that aim to prevent or reduce injury. They include laws and regulations, such as prohibiting the sale of fireworks, and mandatory standards, such as specifying that children's nightwear be fire resistant.

Saints, Preserved

The lives and deaths of saints have long occupied a distinctive place in Christian belief. Other religious traditions have also revered certain individuals as embodying their most admired virtues and having a special relationship with God.

Sartre, Jean-Paul

Traditional European Christian philosophy, particularly in the eighteenth century, was filled with images of and sermons on the fear of the judgment that would come upon the time of death. Characterized by Plato as the need to free the soul from the "hateful" company of the body, death was seen as the entrance into another world.

Saunders, Cicely

The name of Cicely Saunders is synonymous with one of the major social innovations of the twentieth century: the modern hospice movement. Saunders was born in England on June 22, 1918, the first of three children of Gordon and Chrissie Saunders.

Schopenhauer, Arthur

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) was one of the few notable thinkers of his time to regard the relationship between life and death as the central problem of philosophy. He was also among the first Western intellectuals to draw insights from Buddhist and Hindu worldviews.

Serial Killers

Descending into minds that people view as belonging to despicable monsters is a requirement for individuals who search for or attempt to understand serial killers. The serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer would go to bars in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and pick up young men, sometimes telling them he was a photographer and luring them back to his apartment with an offer of money to be his model.

Seven Deadly Sins

Pride, Envy, Avarice, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, and Sloth are the seven deadly sins that popes, saints, preachers, artists, writers, dramatists, and musicians have urged Christian believers to avoid at all costs. Life can be placed at risk by indulging in these sins; for example, those whose arrogant pride invites disaster, the gluttons who eat their way to the grave, or the violently wrathful who are executed according to the laws of the land.

Sex and Death, Connection of

Sex and death have a number of connections other than having been taboo topics in polite company and controversial subjects in school curriculums. As is the case with many taboos, both can lead to fetishes and eroticisms, and their mere mention holds shock value for young adults.

Sexton, Anne

A number of creatively eminent individuals have taken their own lives, including John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, and many other writers. The large number of such cases suggests that there may be a functional relationship between creativity and psychological health.