What are gravestones?

Gravestones are memorials erected in memory of the deceased. They are most commonly associated with burial, but can also be used in commemoration of cremated remains or for symbolic reasons without any direct connection to death. Gravestones are usually designed to mark burials and many are placed at the foot of a grave. Some religions place gravestones on top of the actual grave, instead of marking it with soil or turf.

Gravestones come in two main forms: upright (standing) and flat/inscriptive (lying down). The upright form is more common worldwide than the flat form, although this varies between cultures; for instance, in Northern Europe upright stones are mainly found in covering graves whilst in Eastern European countries inscriptive stone slabs were more common.

Gravestones are normally marked with a inscription to identify the deceased, either in a poem or by naming them and their date of death. In most modern cemeteries in the world the deceased are given a unique identification number for statistical purposes as well as names being recorded on computer databases kept by the cemetery authorities. In many parts of Europe inscriptions were only made on gravestones until around 1700 when this became popular again after falling from fashion during the late Medieval period. (Gravstein) In many cultures including English-speaking countries, there is also a tradition where evidence is placed near the gravestone of a famous person to indicate that they have been visited by other people due to having some kind of association with them. (https://www.gravsteingrossisten.no/pages/gravstein-trondheim)

Gravestones are often used to improve the appearance of a cemetery, but in some places they have been banned due to them being considered an obstruction. They can also become objects of vandalism due to their permanence and prominence at ground level. In many cultures including English-speaking countries, people will visit these grave stones on significant anniversaries such as the deceased’s birth or death day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. People leave flowers at gravesites of loved ones on these days, which means that gravestones serve as a focal point for remembrance celebrations. (https://www.gravsteingrossisten.no/blog/gravstotter-ma-sikres-godt)

Gravestones are normally made of hard stone such as marble since this material is long lasting and easy to work with. There has been a tendency from ancient times towards using softer stones such as alabaster, but the durability of more recently used stones has improved over time. The most common type of stone used for gravestones worldwide is limestone since this material is strong and weathers well.