Gravemarkers are memorials which mark the sites of a burials. This includes an extensive range of artefacts to which many authors apply more specific, but frequently misleading epithets.
A-Headstone, Boston, Massachusetts.
B-Headstone, Varel, Hessen, Germany.
Although the choice of nomenclature is, to some extent, a semantic argument, there are some problems with several terms currently used. The most common of these are ‘gravestone’ and ‘tombstone’ both often applied to any funerary memorial, irrespective of the material from which it is fashioned. It is inappropriate to call something a ‘stone’ that is made from cast iron, brass or some other non-lithic material.
A-Wrought iron gravemarker, Zell am Ziller, Austria.
B-Grave slab, Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
The term ‘marker’ has come to be applied to small, often uninscribed memorials. Why this should be is unclear and it is not easy to justify restricting the term to memorials of that sort. ‘Gravemarker’, therefore, includes gravestones, memorial mural monuments, brass memorial plates and any other funerary or sepulchral artefact that marks the site of grave, irrespective of its form, size or the material from which it is made.
Funerary small ‘brass’ plate, Bisley, Gloucestershire, England.
It can even be applied to living organisms such as trees, for example the dendroglyphs carved in Eucalyptus by the Aboriginal people of Australia. Increasingly, trees are being used as memorials in Europe and North America. The only complication that arises with the term gravemarker is when the body of the deceased is interred in a different place from where the memorial is sited, as was sometimes the case in the nineteenth century in New England during the ‘urn-and-willow’ period. In this situation, the artefact is a ‘funerary memorial’.