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.
Game and Story Use
- For those following the example of Charles Dexter Ward, the right urn of ashes could be extremely valuable.
- 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.