It’s Expensive Out There for a Corpse

by Grace Whitney

Many people find it hard to think of their own funeral. Understandably, we find it something to be avoided. However, ancient Egyptians didn’t seem to see it that way.

In a move that makes a James Cameron film look like a modest undertaking, three ancient Egyptian pharaohs chose to build a set of pyramids for themselves at Giza, about 2300 years ago.

The cost to build the pyramids today, “I can’t even begin to calculate,” says Dr. Kara Cooney, acclaimed Egyptologist and professor at UCLA. The biggest factor would be labor. “If you decide to pay them a real living wage, which of course you would have to today, to determine our cost…it must be in the billions!”

“There is still a lot of debate about how long it took to build the pyramids, but it seems now that the well-organized crews were able to build them in less than 20 years,” says Professor Elizabeth Mansfield, Associate Professor of Art History at NYU.

To break it down, if the average salary of a construction worker today is, let’s say, $50,000. Each worker is paid for 20 years. PBS and NOVA programming, in an investigation of the Pyramids, estimate between 20,000 to 30,000 laborers. This means a minimum of $20 billion in labor alone, if you were to build the Pyramids today.

Considering the average modern burial takes about a day, this seems like a lot of time, money and effort for a single person. But as it turns out, American funerary practices aren’t so cheap themselves.

The CDC reports that there are roughly 2.5 million deaths each year in the United States. Considering the average American casket today costs just over $2000 according to many casket-sellers online, unless you choose to go to Costco or this means we are looking at $5 billion in caskets each year.

So, yes, it costs a lot to be a corpse, at Giza or in New York.


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