The Behind The Scenes Of A Gravedigger’s Work Process

Exhumations can be a period of time that is traumatic for the family members and loved ones involved. Given the size and landmass of Singapore, the island city has put into place policies that call for the exhumation of burial sites after a set amount of years have gone by. This is a response to the age-old issue of land scarcity and the government’s use of land to build properties that are necessary for the nation’s economic growth. In Singapore, most of the graves are either Chinese or Muslim.

While the process of grave exhumation might vary– depending on factors such as soil condition, altitude, and geographical location of burial site – from site to site, the method and materials employed by every gravedigger remains more or less the same.

Do you know what is actually being used to exhume a grave? As the grave exhumation process only takes place at night when there is no sun, exhumation contractors must first set up battery powered LED spotlights on the side. Only then can workers begin knocking the head stones with sledgehammers and digging through the soil with the use of changkols. Afterwards, the laborious process begins: with many instruments and tools being brought up to do the job of gravedigging.

Let us take a look into the inner workings and what are the tools required for the exhuming of a burial site!

Wire cutter: Cuts structural wires within the tomb and the floor.

Shovel: Digs the soil and leftover debris.

Short changkol: Digs with more precision when reaching the coffin.

Long changkol: Digs the top part of the soil.

Flexible hammer: Hits the tombstone with less impact compared with a normal hammer.

Drill motor: Used only when there is a marble slab on top of the coffin.

Long drill insert: Used to drill through marble (about 1m to 2m deep).

Chainsaw: Cuts an opening in the coffin for the remains to be retrieved.

Wheelbarrow: Used to transport the debris and the soil away from the exhumation site.

For a Chinese grave, the gravedigger uses their bare hands to retrieve the human remains, along with any jewellery. Rice wine is then used by the gravedigger and their assistant(s) to rinse the remains. The gravedigger puts the exhumed remains in a white bag that is tied with an identification tag. A representative member of the family must then hold the bag of remains. They have to be shielded with a wood and paper umbrella.

On occasions when a majority of the deceased’s body still has flesh intact, a new coffin has to be pulled in to contain the body of the deceased to be cremated again.

For a Muslim grave, the gravedigger first requests permission to collect the remains. A fresh piece of white linen is then provided for the gravedigger to place the remains on. Wrapped in the white linen, the remains are sent to a nearby station set up for cleaning. The remains will then be placed with the remains of seven other people to be buried together in one grave. The bodies are thereafter interred in a new system that allows for more compact arrangement.

At Embrace Funeral Services, we provide bereavement services to support families during this traumatic period. With our experience in the industry, we will guide you through every step within the process for funeral services. We will commence the digging and knocking process, regardless of sundown or not. Only during the pre-selected auspicious timing after sundown, will we saw open the coffin to collect the remains.

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