It is hard to find exact evidence about the beginning of the use of cremation of human beings. Most of the researchers refer to the Stone Age as the time when there is already evidence of cremation, with most of this testimony coming from the Mediterranean Basin. During the Bronze Age, the custom spread throughout Europe. In later times, both the Greeks and the Romans began to use cremation, and they made a great contribution to the spread of the practice throughout the world. This period marked the beginning of the custom of using funeral urns and the building of the first columbaria for storing the urns.
Around the year 400, when Constantine converted his empire to Christianity, cremation customs ceased almost entirely, except in the case of mass mortality, wars, and plagues. This situation remained the same for almost 1,500 years.
The modern processes for cremating human bodies began only after highly efficient crematoria were developed. A significant break-through took place at an exhibition in Vienna in 1873, when Professor Brunetti, from Italy, presented the crematorium he had developed. In the following years, the custom spread on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In Victorian England, Dr. Sir Henry Thompson, the Queen personal physician, strongly encouraged the use of crematoria, mostly for health reasons. He and his colleagues founded the Cremation Society of England in 1874. Four years later, the first crematoria went into use in England and in Germany. In the United States, Dr. Francis Lemoyne constructed the first crematorium in 1876. By 1913, there were 52 active crematoria in the United States, and approximately 10,000 cremations had been carried out.
There is also much evidence of the custom of cremation in various periods in Israel. One can find information about the accepted burial practices during the late Roman and the Byzantine periods in the Ministry of Education archeological study website. Cremation is among the methods mentioned.
One can find many columbaria in archeological sites through Israel, anywhere from the north to the south.