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Why Are Headstones Placed at the Head of the Grave?

As the name implies, headstones are usually placed at the head of a gravesite. After centuries of burial traditions, you may wonder why headstones are placed at the head of the grave. In this guide, we take a look at historical traditions and practices to discover why we continue to install headstones at the head of the grave. Keep reading to learn more.

Why Are Headstones Placed at the Head of the Grave?

Normally, people are buried with a stone at the head to identify who is buried there. Today, headstones are installed in a wide variety of orientations. We take greater liberties in designing cemeteries or installing headstones, because burial sites must be open, inviting, and more cooperative with pedestrian access or a specific landscape.

There are exceptions to the common west-to-east interment rule. You might find that someone buried in the opposite direction was a minister. Many church graveyards were laid out from east to west, with the heads of the dead buried at the western end of the grave, so they could face the risen Christ on Judgment Day. But a minister was often buried with his head at the eastern end of his grave, so he could face his flock at the time of Resurrection.

Historical Context of Headstones and Installation

Originally, tombstones were placed on top of stone coffins. This tradition took place out of superstition – out of fear that the dead would rise up and escape their graves if they were not entombed with heavy rocks. Once gravestones took the place of tombstones, it was not at all uncommon for headstones to be decorated with etchings of skulls and gravedigger’s shovels. Instead of honoring the dead, grave makers incorporated these etchings to preserve the dead within their final resting places. It was also not uncommon for some people to be buried with both a headstone and a footstone to mark the length of the grave, a tradition that’s practiced to avoid overcrowding or accidental excavation.

Legacy Headstones provides almost a century of experience handcrafting high-quality headstones. We also ship any custom headstone free of charge to the cemetery of your choice, so you can set it in the cemetery yourself and save hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the process. If you have any questions about headstones, please contact us today to learn more. Call us toll-free at 800-611-1340 for further assistance.