The Evolution of the Gravestone

Obviously, when you go to the graveyard, the first thing you look at are all the beautiful headstones, followed secondly by how well the grounds are taken care of. (or is that just me?) When you look at the cemetery, especially the newer ones, there is a drastic difference between the newer graves and the older ones. The newer cemeteries, or the ones that still have room, have sections and sections that look like there is nothing there but grass. Upon further investigation, you will see the headstones all flush with the ground. I have been to these cemeteries in the winter and it looks like there is just open space! I have to put my opinion out there that I do not like the newer looking blocks of the cemetery. My favorite spaces are the ones with the big headstones, monuments marking the grave of a loved one that someone wanted to make a lasting declaration to. They are so beautiful, and thoughtful. There is this website that I found called They are in the New England area and they take rubbing of colonial headstones and make replicas for you to have! How awesome is that?! The take rubbings and create 3D replicas of the headstones, preserving the beauty of a lost art. To find others that appreciate the same things that I do is so amazing. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one that is into these things. The website is I have no affiliation with them, I just think they are amazing and wanted to share their work.

As I look through the older sections of the cemetery, I notice that that a lot of them have been wiped clean. The name, date, any info on who is buried there is completely gone. They newer ones don’t seem to have that problem,  so I decided to look a lil further into what headstones used to be made of. In the earlier years, Headstones were made of slate (1600-1900) and sandstone (1650-1890). it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that Marble and Granite were started to be used as Headstones.  Slate and sandstone are at the mercy of the elements more than the hard stone of granite and marble. Those older stones literally had their face wiped clean by the years and elements. In the future, the headstones form the 1900’s on will still be readable, the others will be lost.

Also, the older ones only have name, date of death and the age that they were at death.  The newer ones have these extra sayings, photos and such. I was curious when all of this started. In the 19th Century, that people started using headstones as memorials instead of just grave markers. The Victorian Era (1837-1901) was a major force in utilizing cemeteries as parks instead of just burial grounds. The utilized the elaborate gravestones and decorations.

There are so many kinds of shapes, materials and size of headstones available now. You look around the cemeteries and some have ceramic pictures of the person buries there. It is really cool ( like my friend Spike pointed out) that we can actually see who the person was who is buried there. They even have locket looking covers to preserve the photos better. Some of these headstones are huge and some are so small you can barely see them. Some are in the Mausoleums around the cemetery, and some are cremated but displayed in the chapel or Mausoleum of the cemetery. Spike has a friend that died when she was in highschool and his headstone is black marble in the shape of a guitar. It is really cool to look at and an awesome way to memorialize him.   Now a days you can get stones that are

  • Flat, Flush or level grave markers
  • Upright Headstone
  • Slant marker ( normally 45 degree angle on a base)
  • Bevel marker or pillow marker (just a slight angle and closer to the ground)
  • Ledger marker ( full stone that is flat and covers the whole grave)
  • Standard domed, shoulder and Gothic Tablet stones
  • Obelisk (those huge monuments you see in the cemeteries- originated in Egypt)

I don’t want this to get to long winded, so I will end on this. Headstones are a huge part of our history and a wonderful memorial to those we have lost and wish to remember. Please help take care of your family graves and memorials. It is a great way to honor your family and to appreciate the beauty of life and death. Thank you for reading!

~ ❤ Ginger

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