The thin white lines that stretch across a grassy knoll near the crematorium at Père Lachaise Cemetery have confused many onlookers. Though the lines may look like some sort of chalky dust, they’re actually the human cremains of thousands of people.
It isn’t free for Parisians to add their ashes to the lines, but it’s a more affordable option for those who wish to be interred in the famous cemetery but don’t want to pay for a costly burial. It’s also a more eco-friendly option. The cremains, which stripe a plot of land near the back of the cemetery, nurture and fertilize the grass as they integrate with the earth.
Being laid to rest in one of the world’s most sought-after cemeteries is no easy task. Over one million bodies, including those of cultural icons and artists like Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, are buried within the grounds. That number doesn’t even include those whose bodies were cremated, their remains either stored within the columbarium or sprinkled onto the back lawn.
There’s a long waiting list to get in, and only those who are native to the city or happened to die there are accepted. Even Parisians who do manage to score a burial plot will most likely one day be exhumed after a few decades to make room for a new corpse.