Oven Tombs

  • Funerary Customs & Traditions
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

The term ''Oven Tomb'' is one that is – in practice, Centuries old. In The United States of America, the practice is regulated to The State of Louisiana (primarily). In The City of New Orleans (and surrounding ''Bayou'' (Swamp) Cities'', the natural geographical ''water table'' (ground water ratio) – is quite high. In short, One cannot ''bury'' a deceased person ''6-feet deep'' (due to flooding and the eventual ''rising of the coffin and or body). To compensate for this, most such burials are accomplished through means of above ground Tombs and Crypts. But what of those poor souls unable to afford elaborate structures? And conversely, the often (and still) expensive process of preparation required? Simply put – ''Oven Tombs''.


These were concrete structures (6-feet long and 8 feet high), which were in essence niches which resembles brick ovens (for cooking – pardon the pun). A person was placed inside the niche in a cheap wooden coffin (without lid). Next, Masons would seal the niche with red brick. Suitably sealed, the remains would ''remain'' (again another pun!) for Louisiana Burial Laws which dictated ''1 year and a Day''. Reopened, the remains would have been reduced to purely bone and dust. The natural heat and humidity of Louisiana (nearly year around), was ideal to the natural decomposition process.


The remains would be gathered up (what a job that was!) and placed into a bag (sack). This sack was then placed back into the Tomb (far into it's rear). Then, ''another body'' was placed inside so to begin it's ''journey''). This process would be repeated for up to 4 to 5 times (depending). After the ''requisite'' number was reached, the Tomb was decommissioned for usage and a plaque was place to9 include ''everyone'' buried ''within''. The practice, which date to the 1820s – would continue well into the 1920s. Today, with active Cremation practices in effect such need for ''Oven Tombs'' are no longer used. But a visit to any Louisiana ''Bayou City'' – will reveal a long History of such ''Oven Tombs'', for all to see!