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Laying out the Body

Laying out the Body

(p.43) Chapter Three Laying out the Body
Gone to the Grave
Abby Burnett
University Press of Mississippi

Prior to the availability of embalming, bodies were usually buried within 24 hours of death. Preparing a body for burial was known as “laying out” and involved washing, dressing and positioning the corpse before rigor mortis set in. It was important to dress the body in new clothing or a shroud or burial robe, and to cover it with fabric until a coffin could be procured. There is a discussion of the African American custom of placing a bowl of salt on the body, the problem of delaying burial too long, touching the body in farewell, as well as whether or not the corpse wore shoes.

Keywords:   Laying out, Rigor mortis, Shroud, Burial robe, Salt

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