New York State Funeral Directors Association

Some of the earliest graves in existence were marked with rocks, wood, or stones.

In some cultures, these primitive items were placed on top of the deceased's grave as a way to stop them from coming back to haunt the living.

Sometimes, the wooden markers would have an inscription of the dead person's name and the year they died as well as their age. But, some markers only had their names inscribed, while many others lacked an inscription altogether.

A solar-powered bulb lights up this modern headstone

As burials in the churchyards continued to evolve, square-shaped gravestones derived from sandstone or slate eventually replaced the more primitive grave markers made of wood, stones, and rock. The inscriptions carved into slate were readable, although quite shallow.

During the 19th century when public cemeteries really started to evolve and change, people began to give importance to headstones, gravestones and footstones as a way to memorialize and pay respect to the deceased.

As a result, they began to engrave the gravestones with a few special words or a message that ultimately gave meaning to the person buried six feet below.

In fact, some of the departed would even inform people who would likely survive them exactly what they wanted inscribed on their headstone upon their passing.

Early Gravestone Designs and Symbols

From 1837 to the early 1900's, the Victorian era strongly highlighted various practices and unique customs relative to death.

Therefore, this special period gave birth to incorporating elaborate grave markers and tombstones.

Over time, cemeteries started to look more like beautiful parks due to their decorated and stylish headstones instead of the more traditional ones of the past.

It was during this period of time that symbols, sculptured designs, and intricate artwork started to become more and more popular, some of which included:

  • Flowers
  • Doves
  • Swords
  • Broken columns
  • Horseshoes
  • Maple leaf
  • Angels of death
  • Weeping willow tree
  • Star of David
  • Eye of Horus
  • Ankh (Egyptian symbol for breath of life)

Tombstones of Today

While the headstone industry might not seem very innovative, a lot has changed from the time of the chisel and hammer.

In fact, most gravestones are carved out by machines with diamond-tips that are so precise that they can replicate a photograph onto stone.

Most of the designs are first drawn out in a computer allowing one the ability to customize their headstone exactly as they wish.

Another advancement that most people might not know of is the integration of QR (quick response) codes and headstones.

A QR code affixed to this headstones provides guests with informationUnlike the QR codes found in stores, the QR codes for headstones contain memories of one’s loved one whether it’s a summary of his or her life or photos and videos.

Most of these QR codes are customizable to connect with any source. All you need is a smartphone and a QR reader app.

Nothing is worse than going to the cemetery and spending hours searching for a loved one’s memorial.

The labyrinth that is a cemetery is no longer an issue with the introduction of GPS. In fact, BillionGraves.com is looking to change all that.

By just downloading the free app, a person can take a picture of the tombstone and have it pinged permanently to easily access the location of the gravestone on the next visit.

While this isn’t much of an advancement, some headstones have incorporated solar powered lights in the tombstone.The problem was that most didn’t last due to the weather. That was before the introduction of the Infinity Solar Lights that are designed to withstand and last. Made of a steel casting and tempered glass, these lights also boast a 10-year warranty. The lights provide a nice glow during the night.

The problem was that most didn’t last due to the weather. That was before the introduction of the Infinity Solar Lights that are designed to withstand and last.

Made of a steel casting and tempered glass, these lights also boast a 10-year warranty. The lights provide a nice glow during the night.

Headstones of the Future

Between social networks, fitness wearables, and smartphones, people are continually tracking different aspects of their lives in general. Where does all that personal data go? It's all about breaking down the numbers and assessing different areas of people's lives through the use of data. Numerically speaking, what did the dearly departed actually achieve?

Some people believe that life is a numbers game based on human behavior and that some of this information can literally be etched right into someone's tombstone.

Things like the number of likes they had on Facebook, how many people followed them on Twitter, how many miles they jogged, or how many pies they baked if they were a pastry chef, all signify their life.

In today's digital age, death can be a complicated subject. Webpages and Twitter posts can survive forever. For instance, Facebook is establishing methods to manage user data after someone dies.

Another potential is the rise of 3D-printing. Currently, a Dutch company sells 3D printed tombstones and the trend will only grow as 3D-printing becomes more popular. Instead of granite tombstones, the 3D printed tombstone would be made of thermoplastics, different metal alloys, and photopolymer.

It's hard to imagine what the gravestones of the 22nd century will ultimately look like. As more advances in technology are made, more gravestones will adopt these changes so that people can pay their respect appropriately. Only time will tell.

 


Jessica Cane
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Legacy Headstones, a leading Ohio-based headstone manufacturer and vendor.