Headstones & Memorials

A Brief History on Headstones and Monuments

Ancient Headstones in a cemetary.

Both headstones and funerary monuments are ancient traditions, familiar to virtually everyone in the western world today. However, few people have taken time to consider the long history and rich traditions that have led to our modern trends in funerary art, or the legacy of fine craftsmanship that has continued unbroken for centuries.

Monuments to commemorate loved ones have existed since perhaps the dawn of human civilization, ranging in complexity from simple field-stone grave markers to the Pyramids of Giza and Taj Mahal. Mausolea and statuary, popular since antiquity with wealthy and famous individuals, represent some of the most elaborate traditions for commemorating the deceased, and continue to be popular for adorning family plots.

Engraved headstones have become by far the most common form of funeral monument. Headstones, as we know them today, evolved slowly over time, but their historical precedents are clear and can be found all around the world. In prehistoric times, stone slabs were used to cover graves and were sometimes carved elaborately. Furthermore, many cultures developed a tradition of carving upright slabs called stelaes for religious or artistic purposes.

Only very wealthy and influential individuals received proper burials with marked graves until just a few centuries ago, when landscaped public cemeteries gained popularity and public health improved the point of being able to honor everyone’s passing with dignity. Epitaphs – the short texts engraved into headstones – have existed since at least the ancient Romans, and have changed from often long, poetic odes to simple, terse notes. Together, these traditions have morphed into modern headstones, now ubiquitous as memorials to our passed loved ones.

Columbia Memorial Gardens offers the highest quality service in the greater Washington, D.C. area. It is owned by Robert Thomas, a graduate of the Elberton Granite Institute in Georgia, who carries both a profound reverence for the tradition of funerary art and an appreciation of the newest trends and technologies. We offer both custom designed headstones and civic monuments, always of the highest handcrafted quality, as well as engraving,cleaning and installation services. Contact Columbia Memorial Gardens today for more information or price quotes.

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