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History of Cemetery Plots

People study the history of cemetery plots because it’s a window into history that remains remarkably well preserved across time.   Cemetery plots can give us valuable clues about the population of the region per generation. Examining the cemetery plots gives archeologists and historians information about the health and life span of the people who lived in the area and the artifacts they were buried with give clues about their culture and beliefs.  We can tell by the care with which they were interred how they were treated in life.  Some archeologists believe that Neanderthals and primitive humans may have even buried their dead.  From every corner of the globe cemetery plots have been found giving important historical data about the region and a vantage point from which to look into the past.

The significance of cemetery plots is shared by almost all cultures going back thousands of years.  It seems to have been used immediately by Christians living in Rome and seen as a spiritual function.  Some ground was set aside as holy just for the burial of remains. In these special cemetery plots usually adjacent to the church this tradition is still carried out today.

In ancient cities if a Martyr, Saint, or particularly blessed person was buried, cemetery plots would spring up around the grave site creating entire cemeteries.  The presence of the Martyr to watch over their loved ones gave the people comfort and some hoped good fortune.

In ancient Greece cemetery plots were popular in addition to cremation and entombment.  Upon death friends and family would gather and wash and dress the body and perform what we would think of today as a wake.  They would then escort the body to the cemetery plot along with hired or volunteer singers who would mourn.  At the cemetery plot the body carried by the men or brought by horse would be placed in the ground.  Visiting the cemetery plot was extremely important to the Greeks who would even adopt children to ensure someone would visit often.

The ancient Pagan people and Celts of the British Isles used a group cemetery plot that generally took advantage of a mound and often had more than one chamber.  Many people would be entombed inside. Like cemetery plots from all over the world throughout human history these primitive people were buried with tools, trinkets, and jewelry, symbols of love and appreciation.  It was thought the massive cemetery plot was visited often by relatives, friends and family members. 

Even in ancient cultures that primarily used cremation, like the early Saxons, used cemetery plots. Archeologists have discovered they would burry the cremated remains in special jars in a cemetery plot so that they would have a location to go back and visit.  Having a place to return and remember someone is a human need that has been present with us throughout history.  Cemetery plots have always been important in the way they provide a sense of closure and an area of memorial for the departed.

The modern idea of a cemetery plot coalesced in the 1500’s under Henry VII’s rule.  Plots began to be set aside with a carved rock and a set of entombment practices began to be formalized into our familiar traditions today.  Ancient and ancestral people may even be buried in a cemetery plot near you.  Hiking through woods or local areas many people come upon stacked rocks, a single standing stone or other unusual monument and walk past it without realizing they have just past an old family cemetery plot, or single grave. 

Usually time has erased any name carved into the stone or the person who placed the stone may have marked it with ink or charcoal.  Thousands of these wild cemetery plots exist today an interesting clue to the past.  Who were the people buried in these mystery graves? What were their lives like? Looking at cemetery plots through the eyes of a detective can give us a link to the past and an understanding of the humanity with which our ancestors lived.

 

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