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Bunch of knotted fibre, used for washing dead, Turkey, 1901-1929

The dead were washed using this bunch of knotted fibre. It originates from Constantinople, now Istanbul, in Turkey. Many cultures have special rituals for preparing the dead for cremation or burial. Washing the body is obligatory in Islamic cultures, where it is washed more than once – perhaps three, five or seven times. The number is always an odd number.

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Glossary: post mortem

A medical procedure that consists of an examination to discover the cause and manner of a death.

Glossary: mortality

The number of deaths which occur in a given area or period, from a particular disease, etc.; the average frequency of death; death rate.

Glossary: brush

Implements consisting of bristles, hair, or the like, set in or attached to a handle; used for painting, cleaning, polishing, or grooming.

Glossary: rigor mortis

Temporary stiffening of the muscles which begins within a few hours of death due to biochemical changes. The condition may last for up to four days before subsiding.