Gravestones, also known as headstones, are markers that indicate the grave site of a person or people.
A gravestone is usually made from marble, granite, concrete and other kinds of stone. Some cultures place heavy emphasis on carving ornate designs into gravestones. The modern day practice of using flat-surfaced stones placed vertically dates back to the ancient times where carved horizontal memorials were not possible due to lack of soft rock material. Gravestones are meant to show respect towards the deceased and it is an important part in most cultures.
In some religions, a grave is considered sacred and it should be kept clean. In Judaism, for example, gravestones are used as permanent memorials for loved ones after burial and almost all gravestones have inscriptions from the Holy Qur’an or from Jewish prayers from the Torah. On a gravestone there is sometimes a list of names of family members who died at that site in chronological order either by age or date of death/burial.
Gravestones can also be found marking mass graves such as World War I and World War II. During these wars, thousands of soldiers died every day which meant that there were not enough coffins for each individual soldier to be buried. As a result, mass graves marked by gravestones were created with the names of soldiers listed on the grave markers.
There importance is even greater after death as they often refer to the location of eternal rest and as a place for reflection, recollection and solace.
Gravestones can be used as an important source to learn about the history of a place, family lineage and also as a way to remember those who have died.
Types of Gravestone
Celtic gravestones are decorated with intricate carvings of knots, spirals and interlacing patterns. (gravsteingrossisten.no) These types of gravestones are usually found in Ireland, Scotland, Brittany and parts of Spain. A Celtic knot is an artistic symbol used for decoration that represents eternity or the interconnectedness of all things.
Markers used to show a specific person’s grave can also be ornate or standard sized markers. Some graves have a footstone which is a smaller marker at the foot end of a grave which denotes where one’s feet would typically point during burial. (https://www.gravsteingrossisten.no/pages/gravstein-oslo) Footstones may also denote the sex of the buried person as it covers from head to toe instead of across middle like other markers do. Headstones range from simple, modern markers to elaborate works of art.
Gravestones have been used as a source of inspiration for many artists and writers throughout the centuries such as Shakespeare who based some of his poem on epitaphs from gravestones. He also wrote about grave memorials in Sonnet no 76. (https://www.gravsteingrossisten.no/blog/gravstotter-ma-sikres-godt)
The word “gravestone” is derived from the Old English “grægstoon.” The use of inscriptions on gravestones dates back to ancient times where carved horizontal memorials were not possible due to lack of suitable stone material. Gravestones are meant to show respect towards the deceased and it is an important part in most cultures even today.