A story behind gravestones

From the survey of gravestones in Calvary cemetery, we found that there are some differences between men’s and women’s gravestone . In the early period (1880-1930), men’s gravestone has more diversity of shape than women’s, such as tablet, round column, pulpit, and obelisk. In the middle and late period, the common shapes of gravestone for both female and male are block and monument (see Graph1 and 2). About the materials, marble gravestones are more common in female group in the early period than male.

When we examine the seriation of gravestone shapes (see Graph3), we find that obelisk is an earlier common shape, and then it was replaced by monument and vertical slab. The block is the most common style from 1880 to most recent. On the other hand, from 1880 to 1920, there are many different kinds of gravestone shape. However, after 1920, the diversity of shapes is less than previous period. From 1930 to 2000, the common shapes are block, monument and vertical slab. After 1990, the recent popular shape of gravestone looks like s chair.

Based on this seriation, we know that the diversity of gravestone from 1880 to 1920 represents the men’s gravestone. And in the early period, the common obelisk style is only observed in male group in this case, which might indicate the different treatment to gender. After 1930, there is no big difference between female and male. This could be also observed from the kinship terms on the gravestone. In the early period, “father” is commonly appear in the male gravestone, but the kinship terms in female gravestone is “wife of…” instead of ”mother”. In the latter period, there is no obvious difference about kinship terms. This transformation might reflect the gender equality after 1930.

Graph1: shapes of female gravestone


Graph2: shapes of male gravestone


Graph3: shapes of gravestone in different periods


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