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"How much is a Grecian Urn?"
"He is earn about a thousan' Euro a month boss!"

Basic Information

An urn is a wide bodied vessel with a narrow neck, usually made of metal or ceramics and typically associated with funerary practices. By memetic association, any vessel used for funerary purposes may be referred to as an urn, and conversely the name may be used for vessels of a similar design used for other purposes. The neck of an urn will typically, but not certainly, be sealed.

Typically the urn will be used as a container for the ashes from a cremation to be stored in a columbarium or for bones (either from an exhumation or a pudridero) which are intended to remain as a discreet burial after being consigned to an ossuary. Depending on the source culture, an urn may be highly decorated (as in Grecian funeral urns) or austerely plain (as in the urns supplied by modern crematoria) … the inclusion or otherwise of grave goods will also be a cultural question (although it's a lot less likely in an urn). Potentially, and in extreme cases, an entire corpse could be stuffed into an urn (although that would probably require an unusually wide mouth and the sort of urn that would be a technological challenge to manufacture) … and possibly embalmed therein. Splitting the difference, a skeleton (complete, if not articulated), perhaps acquired from a pudridero, could be placed in an urn for interment with the neck only needing to be wide enough to pass the skull (…and if there happens to be a hammer and chisel handy…).

Besides funerary purposes, the other major use of the term "urn" is for heated vessels designed to dispense hot drinks for catering purposes - similar to the Russian samovar, these are typically made of metal and fitted with a tap at the base to draw off either hot water, coffee or tea dependant on the context. Such urns will be heated by a power source appropriate to their source culture - modern versions tend to be electric, but spirit or oil lamps are also popular. Tea khaki drab is typically only found in urns, although it may be issued by dipping a mug into it rather than by dispensing from a tap.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • For those following the example of Charles Dexter Ward, the right urn of ashes could be extremely valuable.
  • Urn burial was very much a historical thing - not just a novella by Robert Westall. Not all that common, and sometimes it appears that the deceased did not go into the urn in one piece, but it definitely happened.
  • Potentially, in the right setting, funerary urns may simply contain well packaged undead.
  • Besides the contents, an urn may be valuable in its own right - especially highly decorated examples or those made from precious metals.
    • Where a precursor culture exists - advanced or otherwise - its funerary urns may be in demand for other purposes by their successors.
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