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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

Haunted History: The World's Most Famous Necropoli

Recently I visited Colma, California (near San Francisco). Colma is interesting for many reasons, but mostly because it’s a necropolis, or an especially large cemetery. The town of Colma has a ratio of one thousand dead to every single living person. Though Colma is more modern, most Necropoli date back to before 1500 AD.

I became fascinated with the idea of necropoli, so let’s dig into some of the most famous examples shall we?

Wadi-al-Salaam in Iraq - Wadi-al-Salaam is thought to be the largest cemetery in the world, it’s also an Islamic necropolis. It spans over 1,400 acres and houses over 6 million bodies. Wadi-al-Salaam is still an active cemetery and has been so for over 1,400 years. It’s estimated that about 50,000 new burials are added every year, it’s culturally a very important landmark. Wadi-al-Salaam is located close to the shrine of Ali ibn Abi Talib and the fourth Sunni Caliph.

(Photo by Elelicht)

The North Acropolis in Guatemala - The North Acropolis is an ancient Mayan city, known then as Tikal. This sacred site is an important historical landmark, it served as a site for royal funerary practices for over 1,300 years. A lot of archeological work has been done in this area, much is known about the Kings who were laid to rest here. Notably, many of them were buried with quite a few human sacrifices. The area is also home to many great monuments and temples.

(Photo by Hermann A.M. Mucke)

The Burgstallkogel in the Sulm Valley in Austria - The Burgstallkogel is a hill surrounded by a very large necropolis. It dates back to the Iron Age and is one of the biggest in Europe. This specific necropolis is believed to be home to about 2,000 tumuli (burial mounds). Though many have been destroyed over the years. Notably, the bodies buried at The Burgstallkogel had all been cremated, sometimes along with the dead’s personal belongings. This is quite different than how the dead were buried in surrounding regions. This cemetery is also home to four graves of Chieftain.

(Photo by By HalaRah)

The Chellah in Rabat, Morocco - This area was an ancient Roman city which sat abandoned until around the 1300s when a Merinid sultan turned the area into a Muslim necropolis. The site is protected by walls and contains several courtyards and mausoleums. It's also a protected world heritage site.

(Photo by Mgiganteus1)

Tombs of The Kings in Cyprus - Tombs of The Kings is believed to have been an active cemetery starting during the 4th century BC through the 3rd century AD. The subterranean tombs were carved of out stone and reserved for the high ranking people of the time.

The Alyscamps in Arles, France - The Alyscamps is thought to have been the most famous necropolis during ancient times, dating back to Roman times. In the 4th century, this are became largely Christian. It’s believed that Jesus attended a funeral at The Alyscamps for Saint Trophimus. It’s said that he left the imprint of his knee on the lid of the tomb.

Vatican City in Rome, Italy - The Vatican Necropolis lies underneath the city. Certain parts of the cemetery date back to Roman times. Interestingly, this was not originally a subterranean cemetery. It was an open air resting place. At the time, it was illegal to bury the dead within the city limits. This necropolis would have been located outside the city proper at the time it was constructed.

The Giza Necropolis - There are many Necropoli in Egypt. Let’s talk about perhaps the most well known. This cemetery includes many famous pyramids, including the Great Pyramid of Giza. These pyramids were constructed between 2500 and 2600 BCE.

There are necropoli across the globe, spanning nearly every continent. For a longer list, check out this Wikipedia entry.

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