Among the ancients, cinerary urns were in common use to hold the ashes of the deceased after the body had been subjected to incremation, which was the usual mode of disposing of it. He who would desire to be learned upon this subject should read Sir Thomas Browne's celebrated work entitled Hydriotaphioc, or Urn Burial, where everything necessary to be known on this topic may be found .
In Freemasonry, the cinerary urn has been introduced as a modern symbol, but always as having reference to the burial of the Temple Builder. In the comparatively recent symbol of the Monument, arranged probably by Cross for the Degree of Master in the American Rite, the urn is introduced as if to remind the beholder that the ashes of the great artist were there deposited. Cross borrowed, it may be supposed, his idea from an older symbol in the advanced Degrees, where, in the description of the tomb of Hiram Abif, it is said that the heart was enclosed in a golden urn, to the side of which a triangular stone was affixed, inscribed with the letters J.M.B. with in a wreath of acacia, and placed on the top of an obelisk (see Monument, and Time, also Broken Column).
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