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a sculptural work or a small architectural form. Its purpose is to perpetuate the memory of the deceased on whose grave it is erected (in contrast to a tomb, in which the body of the deceased is enclosed, or to a cenotaph).

In Neolithic cultures, graves were marked by wooden pillars (menhirs). In ancient Greece, statues and stelae portraying the deceased were erected over the grave. In Europe during the early Middle Ages, with the spread of Christianity, the low-relief stelae characteristic of the period of the Great Migrations were replaced by crosses. Beginning in the 11th century the most common type of gravestone in Western Europe was an empty stone or bronze box, covered with a slab bearing a portrait of the deceased in the form of a relief, an engraving, or a statue; it was placed above the grave, usually inside a church. Stone slabs with carved ornaments were common in the medieval period in the Caucasus. Chinese gravestones—vertical slabs on which names rather than portraits were carved—gradually became freestanding memorial walls.

During the Renaissance, gravestones, as a rule, were replaced by sepulchers. During the 17th and 18th centuries, portraits on gravestones were often combined with symbols of the transience of life on earth and with allegorical figures; inscriptions acquired a more important role in the overall composition. From the late 18th century to the early 19th, gravestones were usually erected not in churches but in cemeteries, forming what might be considered gravestone museums.

Since the second half of the 19th century, the religious and didactic nature of gravestones has gradually diminished, and the only ornament on the grave has been a portrait of the deceased or a terse emblem, having a purely commemorative purpose.


Netunakhina, G. D. , and N. I. Udimova. Muzei gorodskoi skul’ptury: Kratkii putevoditel’. Leningrad, 1972.
s’Jacob, N. Idealism and Realism: A Study of Sepulchral Symbolism. Amsterdam, 1954.
Panofsky, E. Tomb Plastik. London, 1955.


References in periodicals archive ?
Lumish also posts about each veteran whose gravestone he restores so that the veteran is remembered.
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The inscriptions on this gravestone slab refer to Samuel Foster, who died in 1851, Ann Foster, who died in 1852, and Joshua Foster, who died in 1879.
The 40-year-old, from Woodgate Valley, told them he wanted to give George a new gravestone and would carry out the work for free.
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Now, the group is hoping to discover more about the mystery gravestone and possibly track down any ancestors that may still be in the area.
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He was writing the brief biography of a dead person on a gravestone.
1) Imagine you are in the United Kingdom collecting data for the Gravestone Project.
KNEELING beside a gravestone in a village churchyard, one old soldier pays his respects to another.
From slate to marble; gravestone carving traditions in Eastern Massachusetts, 1770-1870.