Analysis of cemetery gravestones can yield interesting information about ongoing world events and general trends in religious behavior and burial practices. Charting the frequency of burials that our class surveyed reveals two peaks in death (Figure 1). One of the peaks around 1918 corresponds with the Spanish flu, a worldwide epidemic that caused millions of deaths, including many in the US. Another peak in the late 1930s, early 40s is likely associated with World War II; some of the gravestones from this period list the military affiliations of the people buried. Most of the gravestones placed during these peaks were the block style (Figure 2). Due to the large number of burials during these time periods, the cemetery was probably rapidly expanding and thus the number of very large monumental gravestones and plots decreased. The block style gravestone takes up less space than some of the other stone types and more people could be buried in a smaller area. Though our sample size was small, it was still revealing of world events and trends in gravestone styles. I imagine that an even larger survey size would reveal a more refined view.
Figure 1: Number of People Buried Per Point of Time
Figure 2: Changes in Gravestone Shape Over Time