Gravestones go by many names, including grave markers, headstones, and tombstones, just to name a few. These structures have been devices of human culture since the beginning of time. Primitive peoples used markers at burial sites to keep track of kin and familial bloodlines. As to be expected, a majority of grave markers have been erased by time due to weathering, urban planning, and other factors.

Prehistoric gravestones were often made of wood or other soft materials. However, some headstones stand to this day. In Ireland alone, there are approximately 172 megalithic tombs that contain human remains as well as artifacts. One of the most famous tombs, the Poulnabrone dolmen, dates back to the Neolithic period between 4200 and 2900 B.C. In this article, we examine the history of headstones to study the evolution of materials, methods, and more. Keep reading to learn more about the history of crafting headstones.

Medieval Headstones

Stonemasons of the Medieval period were severely limited by time, methods, and materials. In a region with only soft rocks, their gravestones would likely erode quickly. Stones were often carried to the gravesite by animals and men, so those people preferred smaller stones made with local materials. Regions blessed with quality rock and skilled stonecutters are often sites where grave markers survive to this day. In the Merovingian region of France, for example, there lie tombstones that are more than a thousand years old.

Victorian and Civil War Headstones

Many of the modern attitudes toward death stem from the 17th to 19th centuries, where headstones, as we know them today, were originally constructed. Civil War battlegrounds throughout America paved the way with endless wooden crosses. Soon thereafter, deceased soldiers were memorialized in stone tombs. Granite became a preferred material. New England was well-known for plentiful rock that made gravestones easier to make and shipping more convenient. Grave markers also began to take thin, rectangular shapes during this era.

History of Crafting Headstones in the 20th Century

After the Industrial Revolution, America grew as a land of progress and technology. The 20th century served as a bridge between fabrication methods of the past and methods of the future. At the beginning, headstones were still cut by hand and polished using ancient techniques that left stone open to corrosion and decay. As the country saw rapid codification of methods and techniques, machines became widely employed to cut and finish stone with perfect regularity, giving way to complex shapes and intricate customization options. These advancements were particularly useful during the first and second world wars.

Modern Headstones

Today, headstones are most often designed by computers and cut by machine-assisted technology. Advancements in fabrication provide nearly unlimited versatility in shape, features, or materials. Best of all, materials are protected against weathering and designed to be durable for hundreds of years to come. Modern headstones are superior to headstones of the past in almost every way. If you have any questions about the history of headstones, please contact Legacy Headstones for additional information today. Since 1920, our family-owned and operated business has been handcrafting quality headstones from bronze, granite, and other impermeable materials.