6ft figure came from the black plague, a law was passed in England that all bodies were to be buried 6 ft deep to reduce the spread of the plague, too bad the plague was spread by fleas not dead bodies. This number is not standard any more though, in some places bodies can’t even be buried because of soil depths, conditions and water table depths, In many places bodies must be entombed above ground. In California, caskets must be covered by at least 18 inches of dirt and turf.
As usual, “The Straight Dope” answer column has a good answer on this: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2271/why-is-six-feet-under-the-standard-depth-for-burial
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