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Headstones – Where Did They Originate?

Evidence of human burials goes back at least 100,000 years before our earliest civilizations arose. Such ancient burial sites are often found with artefacts that suggest the deceased believed in an afterlife of sorts, and we are the only known species to bury our dead as we do.

There are many different preferences and beliefs and burials evolved over generations and today’s funerals probably look quite different to those in the past. Among the most common features you’ll find around modern burials is the use of a headstone, but from where did they originate?

What Are Headstones?

Headstones are essentially a way to mark the deceased ‘s burial place. For many people, marking their burial place in this way gives the living a way to come and visit their deceased. For many others, burying a body is believed to help the deceased pass into the afterlife.

Of course, some grave markers are far more elaborate than others. Famous examples include the pyramids of Egypt which are essentially elaborate grave markers for deceased Pharaohs. Of course, the average person could not afford such extravagance, but people still wanted some way to commemorate their departed.

Today’s headstones are more elaborate than a pile of rocks but nowhere near as elaborate as having your own pyramid. Instead, they are often no more than a few feet high and with a fairly simple design.

When Were Headstones First Used?

As far as we could tell the earliest headstones were used by the Celtic and Roman cultures at around 3000 BC. Ancient Roman burials often involved headstones that gave the deceased’s name and information such as military endeavours.

Modern headstones tend to include the deceased’s name and something about their life. They can be seen in graveyards up and down the country although they are becoming less common as many people turn to alternatives like cremation or eco-burials.

What Are Headstones Made From?

As mentioned, our earliest ancestors would likely have made headstones that were little more than a pile of wood or stone. Todays are made from very different materials and, naturally, more opulent individuals would prefer something more extravagant. As such it’s not uncommon to see marble headstones that cost a lot more than other options.

Perhaps the most common material used to make headstones today is granite. This is partly because granite is very durable and can easily withstand being outside exposed to the elements for years on end. Granite is also an aesthetically pleasing material and does not cost as much as other options like marble.

Where Can I Buy a Headstone?

Headstones are made by specialists, but it will be easy to find one reasonably close to you. You will also find a variety of options available at different budgets and most headstone makers will also offer engraving services.

Another alternative is to have a headstone arranged through your funeral director. They will have the experience to understand what you will need for the best results and may also be able to find the best price for you. Not only will you be getting the best results, but you can also be rest assured that your Funeral arrangements of in the hands of professionals.

Do I Have to Install the Headstone?

Headstones are usually quite heavy and bulky, and you will need to dig deep to keep them firmly rooted into the ground. This can be hard laborious work, but the good news is that a funeral director can typically make the arrangements for you. Otherwise, the graveyard management may be able to help you have a headstone put in place.

Do I Have to Maintain the Headstone?

Headstones are typically made from very tough materials that can withstand many years of open exposure to the elements. As such the headstones themselves will usually require little to no maintenance perhaps to keep them looking in good condition.

However, many graveyards will set minimum requirements regarding the ongoing maintenance of the grave overall. After all many other families will also be using the graveyard to visit their loved ones so it’s only right graves should be kept in good and tidy condition. Some graveyards might offer maintenance services if maintenance is too difficult for you.


Headstones have been around for thousands of years although the designs changed since early types. Our earliest ancestors may have used grave markers even before our first civilizations began. For many people, a burial will provide some reassurance that the deceased will pass into an afterlife, but burials are a common choice for many other reasons.

The good news is that you’ll find beginning list companies not far from you that make headstones and offer other services such as engraving and installation. They may also be able to make recommendations to help ensure you get what you want.

One alternative is to let the funeral director handle the gravestone arrangements for you and they will typically offer a range of options for you to choose from. The funeral director will also help relieve the burden on you for such a stressful time by telling as much of the work themselves as possible.

If you would like more information on headstones or anything else related to funerals, feel free to get in touch with the team at Family Funeral Services. Our professional and friendly will be looking forward to hearing how we can be of assistance.