Burial sites and cemeteries are covered with markers of the dead , better known as a headstones, gravestones, or tombstones. Often carved out of stone, headstones come in many different shapes and sizes , fashioned out a variety of materials and bearing an inscription that offers details regarding the deceased. In this article, you will learn interesting facts and background information concerning headstones.
Background on Headstones
In the past, headstones were called steles , structures constructed for funerals or commemorations. The names and titles of the deceased or living were placed onto the stele , often made out of stone or a wooden slab. The names were inscribed, painted or carved in relief. The stele is known as one of the oldest forms of funerary art. The first headstones used for individuals did not stand out of the ground like they do today. They originally served as the stone lid of a stone coffin. In some cases, gravestones were the stone slabs laid over a grave.
During the 1700s, gravesites had footstones, which defined the foot end of a grave. They weren’t elaborate and usually offered the initials of the deceased and the year of their death. This was a practice especially popular in the United Kingdom.
Interestingly, some people erected headstones for themselves even when they weren’t dead. Since it costs money to have a plot in a cemetery or purchase a gravestone, some people view headstones as a sign of wealth or distinction in a community. It is not unusual to see gravestones commissioned and constructed to people who have not yet died.
Erecting a Headstone
Cemeteries have come a long way from simply providing people a place to bury their remains. Over the years, regulations and national codes of conduct have been implemented. The size and kind of materials used to create a headstone are now monitored. Not all cemeteries share the same rules. Some of the limitations people face when choosing a final resting place include:
Ã‚Â· Wooden memorials have six months after a burial to be replaced with a more permanent commemoration.
Ã‚Â· Some stones must fall in line with pre-determined shapes or positions in order to accommodate the grass-cutting methods of the cemetery.
Ã‚Â· Routine inspection and maintenance of headstones is required to prevent injury to visitors. Weather conditions and everyday wear and tear can cause stones to settle, topple and even fall.
Ã‚Â· Overgrown graves and markers that become lost or vandalized must be attended to.
To prevent damage to a headstone, a restoration professional (called a monumental mason) has been trained in the appropriate way to care for gravestones. They even learn how to remove overgrowth without harming the carving of the marker. For instance, pulling ivy off of a headstone with force can cause damage. A monumental mason knows to cut the ivy at the base root and left to die in a natural manner.