A headstone, tombstone or gravestone is a marker, normally carved from stone, placed over or next to the site of a
burialin a cemeteryor elsewhere.
stele, as they are called in an archaeological context, is one of the oldest forms of funerary art. Originally, a tombstone was the stone lid of a stone coffin, or the coffin itself, and a gravestone was the stone slab that was laid over a grave. Now all three terms are also used for markers placed at the head of the grave. Originally graves in the 1700s also contained footstones to demarcate the foot end of the grave. Footstones were rarely carved with more than the deceased's initials and year of death, and many cemeteries and churchyards have removed them to make cutting the grass easier. Note however that in many UK cemeteries the principal, and indeed only, marker is placed at the "foot" of the grave.
Graves and any related memorials are a focus for
mourningand remembrance. The names of relatives are often added to a gravestone over the years, so that one marker may chronicle the passing of an entire family spread over decades. Since gravestones and a plot in a cemetery or churchyard cost money, they are also a symbol of wealth or prominence in a community. Some gravestones were even commissioned and erected to their own memory by people who were still living, as a testament to their wealth and status. In a Christian context, the very wealthy often erected elaborate memorials within churches rather than having simply external gravestones.
Crematoria frequently offer similar alternatives for families who do not have a grave to mark, but who want a focus for their mourning and for remembrance. Carved or cast
commemorative plaques inside the crematorium for example may serve this purpose.
Most types of
building materialshave been used at some time as markers. The more usual materials include:
* Fieldstones. The earliest markers for graves were natural
fieldstone, some unmarked and others decorated or incised using a metal awl. Typical motifs for the carving included a symbol and the deceased's name and age.
Graniteis a hard stone and traditionally has required great skill to carve by hand. Modern methods of carving include using computer-controlled rotary bits and sandblastingover a rubber stencil. Leaving the letters, numbers and emblems exposed on the stone, the blaster can create virtually any kind of artwork or epitaph.
Irongrave markers and decorations were popular during the Victorian erain the United Kingdomand elsewhere, often being produced by specialist foundriesor the local blacksmith. Many cast iron headstones have lasted for generations while wrought ironwork often only survives in a rusted or eroded state.
* Marble and limestone. Both
limestoneand marbletake carving well. Marble is a recrystallised form of limestone. Both marble and limestone slowly dissolve when exposed to the mild acid in rainwater which can make inscriptions unreadable over time. Marblereplaced sandstone as a popular material from the early 1800s.
Sandstoneis durable yet soft enough to carve easily. Some sandstone markers are so well preserved that individual chisel marks can be discerned in the carving, while others have delaminated and crumbled into dust. Delamination occurs when moisture gets between the layers that make up the sandstone. As it freezes and expands the layers flake off. In the 1600s sandstone replaced fieldstones in Colonial America.
Slatecan have a pleasing texture but is slightly porous and prone to delamination. It takes lettering well, often highlighted with white paint or gilding.
* White Bronze. Actually sand cast
zinc, but called white bronze for marketing purposes. Almost all, if not all, zinc grave markers were made by the Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, CT, between 1874 and 1914. They are in cemeteries of the period all across the U. S. and Canada. They were sold as more durable than marble, about 1/3 less expensive and progressive.
* Wood. This was a popular material during the Georgian and
Victorian era, and almost certainly before, in Great Britainand elsewhere. Some could be very ornate, although few survive beyond 50-100 years due to natural decomposition.
* Planting. Trees or shrubs, particularly roses, may be planted, especially to mark the location of ashes. This may be accompanied by a small inscribed metal or wooden marker.
cemeterymay follow national codes of practice or independently prescribe the size and use of certain materials, especially if in a conservation area. Some may limit the placing of a wooden memorial to 6 months after burial, after which a more permanent memorial should be placed. Others may require stones to be of a certain shape or position to facilitate grass-cutting by machines, or hand-held cutters.Cemeteries require regular inspection and maintenance, as stones may settle, topple and, on rare occasions, fall and injure people [ [http://www.hse.gov.uk/services/localgovernment/cemletter.htm Memorial safety] ] ; or graves may simply become overgrown and their markers lost or vandalised.Restoration is a specialised job for a monumental mason; even the removal of overgrowth needs care to avoid damaging the carving. For example, ivy should only be cut at the base roots and left to naturally die off, and never pulled off forcefully.
's inscription famously declares;
: ""'Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear,: ""'To dig the dust enclosèd here.: ""'Blest be the man that spares these stones,: ""'And cursed be he that moves my bones.
Or a warning about Mortality, such as this Persian poetry carved on an ancient tombstone in the
Tajikicapital of Dushanbe. [ [http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article18340.htm Information Clearinghouse] ] [ [http://news.independent.co.uk/fisk/article2941871.ece Robert Fisk: "An urge to smash history into tiny pieces" Information Clearing House] The Independent, 08 September 2007 ]
: ""'I heard that mighty Jamshed the King: ""'Carved on a stone near a spring of water these words::: "'"Many – like us – sat here by this spring:: ""'And left this life in the blink of an eye.:: ""'We captured the whole world through our courage and strength,:: ""'Yet could take nothing with us to our grave." Or a simpler warning of inevitability of death, such as:
:: ""'Reader beware as you pass by,:: ""'As you are, so once was I,:: ""'As I am now, so you will soon be,:: ""'Prepare for your fate and follow me.
The basic information on the headstone generally includes the name of the deceased and their date of birth and death. Such information can be useful to genealogists and local historians. Larger cemeteries may require a discrete reference code as well to help accurately fix the location for maintenance. The cemetery owner, church, or, as in the UK, national guidelines might encourage the use of 'tasteful' and accurate wording in inscriptions.
Headstone engravers faced their own "
Year 2000 problem" when still-living people, as many as 500,000 the United States alone, pre-purchased headstones with pre-carved death dates beginning 19–. [ [http://reason.com/9907/ci.ml.grave.shtml Grave Problem] ] Bas-reliefcarvings of a religious nature or of a profile of the deceased can be seen on headstones dating from before the 1800s. Since the invention of photography, a gravestone might include a framed photographor cameoof the deceased; photographic images or artwork (showing the loved one, or some other image relevant to their life, interests or achievements) are sometimes now engraved onto smooth stone surfaces.
Some headstones use lettering made of white metal fixed into the stone, which is easy to read but can be damaged by ivy or frost. Deep carvings on a hard-wearing stone may weather many centuries exposed in graveyards and still remain legible. Those which are fixed on the inside of churches, on the walls or on the floor (frequently as near to the
altaras possible) may last much longer: such memorials were often embellished with a monumental brass.
Marker inscriptions have also been used for political purposes, such as the grave marker installed in January 2008 at
Cave Hill Cemeteryin Louisville, Kentuckyby Mathew Prescott, an employee of PETA. The grave marker is located near the grave of KFCfounder Harland Sandersand bears the acrostic message “KFC tortures birds.” [ [http://www.usnews.com/blogs/washington-whispers/2008/01/10/peta-takes-fight-to-col-sanderss-grave.html PETA Takes Fight to Col. Sanders's Grave] ] The group placed its grave marker to promote its contention that KFC is cruel to chickens.
Form and decoration
Gravestones may be simple upright slabs with semi-circular, rounded, gabled, pointed-arched, pedimental, square or other shaped tops. During the 18th century, they were often decorated with "
memento mori" (symbolic reminders of death) such as skulls or winged skulls, winged cherub heads, heavenly crowns, urns or the picks and shovels of the grave digger. Somewhat unusual were more elaborate allegorical figures, such as Old Father Time, or emblems of tradeor status, or even some event from the life of the deceased (particularly how they died). Later in the same century, large tomb chests or smaller coped chests were commonly used by the gentryas a means of commemorating a number of members of the same family. In the 19th century, headstone styles became very diverse, ranging from plain to highly decorated. They might be replaced by more elaborately carved markers, such as crosses or angels. Simple curb surrounds, sometimes filled with glass chippings, were popular during the mid-20th century.
Some form of simple decoration is once more popular. Special emblems on tombstones indicate several familiar themes in many faiths. Some examples are:
Anchor- Steadfast hope
Arch- Rejoined with partner in Heaven
Birds- The soul
Book- Faith, wisdom
Cherub- Divine wisdomor justice
Column- Noble life
column- Early death
Conchshell - Wisdom
Cross, anchorand Bible- Trials, victory and reward
* Crown - Reward and glory
Dolphin- Salvation, bearer of souls to Heaven
Dove- Purity, love and Holy Spirit
Evergreen- Eternal life
Garland- Victory over death
Gourds - Deliverance from grief
Hands- A relation or partnership (see Reference 3)
Horseshoe- Protection against evil
Hourglass- Time and its swift flight
Ivy- Faithfulness, memory, and undying friendship
* Lamb -
* Laurel - Victory, fame
Lily- Purity and resurrection
Lion- Strength, resurrection
Mermaid- Dualism of Christ- fully God, fully man
Olive branch- Forgiveness, and peace
* Palms -
Martyrdom, or victory over death
Peacock- Eternal life
Pillow- a deathbed, eternal sleep
Poppy- Eternal sleep
Rooster- Awakening, courage and vigilance
* Shell - Birth and
Star of David- The God
Skeleton- Life's brevity
Snakein a circle - Everlasting life in Heaven
sword- Life cut short
* Crossed swords - Life lost in battle
Torch- Eternal life if upturned, death if extinguished
Treetrunk - The beauty of life
Triangle- Truth, equality and the trinity
urn- Old age, mourning if draped
willow- Mourning, grief
Greek letters might also be used:
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/12978 In Search Of Gravestones Old And Curious] by W.T. (William Thomas) Vincent, 1896, from
* [http://www.worldburialindex.com/of_interest.php World Burial Index] Photographs of memorial inscriptions plus free surname search
* [http://www.gravematter.com A Very Grave Matter] Old New England gravestones
* [http://www.historicheadstones.com Historic Headstones Online] Project to transcribe content from historic headstones
* [http://www.pagstones.com Pennsylvania German tombstones]
* [http://www.spiritedghosthunting.com/GravestoneSymbols-ArgentMoon.htm Gravestone symbols] from [http://www.spiritedghosthunting.com/index.html Spirited ghost hunting]
* [http://www.oldheadstones.com Old Headstones and Tombs] displays a scattergram of the distribution of hands sculptures on headstones, and some remarkable tombstones
* [http://www.ettc.net/njarts/details.cfm?ID=956 The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey] includes gravestone imagery in the state of New Jersey
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Look at other dictionaries:
Headstone — The Best of UFO Album par UFO Sortie Août 1983 Enregistrement 1974 1983 Durée 68 min 06 s Genre Hard rock Produc … Wikipédia en Français
Headstone — Head stone ( st[=o]n ), n. 1. The principal stone in a foundation; the chief or corner stone. Ps. cxviii. 22. [1913 Webster] 2. The stone at the head of a grave. [1913 Webster] … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
headstone — c.1400, cornerstone, from HEAD (Cf. head) (adj.) + STONE (Cf. stone) (n.). Meaning upright stone at the head of a grave is 1775, from head (n.) … Etymology dictionary
headstone — ► NOUN ▪ an inscribed stone slab set up at the head of a grave … English terms dictionary
headstone — [hed′stōn΄] n. 1. Rare a cornerstone 2. a stone marker placed at the head of a grave … English World dictionary
headstone — UK [ˈhedˌstəʊn] / US [ˈhedˌstoʊn] noun [countable] Word forms headstone : singular headstone plural headstones a piece of stone with a name and dates on it that marks a grave (= place where a dead person is buried) … English dictionary
headstone — [[t]he̱dstoʊn[/t]] headstones N COUNT A headstone is a large stone which stands at one end of a grave, usually with the name of the dead person carved on it. Syn: grave stone … English dictionary
headstone — noun Date: 1775 a memorial stone at the head of a grave … New Collegiate Dictionary
headstone — /hed stohn /, n. a stone marker set at the head of a grave; gravestone. [1525 35; HEAD + STONE] * * * … Universalium
headstone — noun A gravestone, a grave marker: a monument traditionally made of stone placed at the head of a grave … Wiktionary