The ancient Zoroastrian tradition tells of how human flesh, once dead and decomposing, is so unclean it will pollute everything it touches. Holding the elements of earth and water as inviolably sacred, their religion did not permit the dead to be interred in soil or disposed of in the sea. Fire above all was worshipped as god-given and pure, and burning the dead would be the greatest of desecrations.
In acts of elaborate ritual the dead would be carted out into the forbidding desert by the nasellars, ritual pallbearers of Zoroastrianism. Far from settlements, they were taken up winding slopes up stark and ragged sandstone hills, to the Towers of Silence.
A Tower of Silence, known as dakhma in the sacred avestan tongue, is a large, cylindrical structure with a plateau of slabs laid in concentric circles surrounding a center pit. Its sole purpose was to leave dead bodies exposed to the searing desert conditions, though most importantly, to ever-circling, ever-present voracious birds of prey.