History of the Headstone

In common speech, the terms headstone, tombstone, grave marker and gravestone are often used synonmously. But it wasn’t always that way. Originally, the terms tombstone and headstone described the stone lid of a coffin, while a gravestone was the marker placed on top of the gravesite.

Evolving compositions

It took many years for granite to evolve as the popular choice for headstones. In ancient Greece, marble was in vogue. Yet marble tends to deteriorate. Wooden headstones were briefly popular in the 19th century. Slate and sandstone have also been used extensively over the years.

Granite came into fashion in America in the middle of the 19th century, and remains the material of choice today.

Significance of the memorial

For centuries, societies have used grave markers as signs of remembrance, or as places where friends and relatives can mourn openly, and feel close to the deceased.

Grave markers traditionally bear the deceased’s name, the years of birth and death, an inscription and sometimes an emblem or symbol.

Inscriptions or epitaphs are usually personalized to honor the deceased’s life. They may also bear a religious message or quote. Any emblem selected for the headstone commonly symbolizes hope, faith, wisdom, glory, purity, love, life, victory and so on.

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