I went to Oakland this morning.

It was a fine day for graving in one of my favorite cemeteries.

Angels and other mourning figures catch the eye...
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The weeping angel on the Steen monument is a favorite of many visitors to the cemetery, and is one of my all time personal favorites. The level of detail the stone carver cut into this monument is incredible.
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I have no idea how long some of these old trees have been there, but their massive branches create cool quiet for meditation.
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Mausoleums...their doors - sometimes ornate, and sometimes quite plain - always intrigue me.
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Heartbreak immortalized in stone. H D and Kate Green lost two sons to war.
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Members of several cultures place stones upon a gravestone. The practice probably dates back to a Jewish tradition of marking a grave with a cairn of stones. Each mourner added a stone to the cairn to honor the deceased.

It's refreshing to see that the staff of Oakland do not sweep the stones off of gravestones, as is often done in larger corporate cemeteries.
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The gravestones at Oakland are full of symbols, as are many of the fences and gates.
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In addition to the likeness on this one, there is also a symbol of an eternal flame.
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If you are local to the area, you simply must go smell the roses while they are in bloom on this family plot.
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Inscriptions always catch my eye...
Died Thursday Morning
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My Beloved One Farewell
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Before I was the unofficial family historian, I took photos of gravestones.

Cemeteries have never been scary places for me - quite the opposite. I am very comfortable in cemeteries.

I love cemetery art. That's why I can hardly bear to pass up a cemetery when I travel across my state, cameras riding safely in the backseat.

The older the cemetery is, the more I'm drawn to it. The older ones have gravestones full of symbolism.

If you are as fond of funerary art as I am, then Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography, by Douglas Keister, is a worthwhile investment. It even has a coated cover so you can take it graving on foggy and misty days...

Disclosure: I took all of the gravestone photos that appear in this entry, with the exception of the ones from Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah, GA. Those photos were taken by a co-worker and her husband who know what a fool for cemeteries I am, and were given to me with their permission to post.


Angels
Some of the most beautiful depictions of angels I've ever seen are in cemeteries.

Angels get special treatment in Stories in Stone, including a very interesting history of angels.

To date, my all-time favorite angel is this one.

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Oakland Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR


The back is just as detailed as the front.

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Calvary Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR

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Mount Holly Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR


This one is interesting to me, because it combines a number of symbols.
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Mount Holly Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR

In addition to the angel, there's a cross, a wreath, a scroll and a crown. The crown is symbolic of triumph over death, the scroll symbolizes written scripture, and the wreath means victory over death.

Children's Graves
Children's graves, even more recent ones, are frequently adorned with lambs.

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Carter Cemetery, Russell, White Co., AR

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Shiloh Cemetery, Pope Co., AR


Couples' Symbols
Probably everyone has seen the modern day indicator of the married couple - a double gravestone, sometimes with entwined rings on it, as well as the date of the marriage.

I think one of my favorite "couple" symbols is the one of clasped hands - one with a masculine cuff on the sleeve, and one with a frillier cuff. It was a very popular symbol in the 19th century.

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Ford Cemetery, Pope Co., AR

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Shiloh Cemetery, Pope Co., AR


The arch symbolizes the passage to heaven for both of them, and joins their stones.

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Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Shelby Co., TN


Fraternal Organizations
I had no idea my g-g-grandfather, James Littleton Burris, was a Freemason until I studied his gravestone. I'm still trying to figure out g-g-grandma's (Elizabeth Adeline (Ashmore) Burris) gravestone symbology, because the star for the Order of the Eastern Star (the women's auxiliary of the Freemasons) should be a five point star with the tip pointing down.


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St Joe Cemetery, Pope Co., AR


Woodmen of the World gravestones are all over Arkansas, although I see fewer Women of Woodcraft stones (below the WoW stone).

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Calvary Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR

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Edgewood Cemetery, North Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR


This one combines a drape with the Masonic symbol...
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Atkins City Cemetery, Atkins, Pope Co., AR


Odd Fellows - Friendship, Love, and Truth...
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Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Shelby Co., TN


The Mosaic Templars...

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Robinson Cemetery, Faulkner Co., AR


Religious Symbols
Crosses come in all shapes, sizes, and not all have the same meaning.

A Maltese cross. (It took me quite a while to figure this one out.)

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Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Pulaski Co., AR


A German-Russian cross with a sunburst in a Catholic cemetery...

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St. Peter and St. Paul Cemetery, Logan Co., AR


i h s is derived from the first three letters in Jesus' name using the Greek alphabet: Iota, Eta, Sigma. (A variation sometimes seen is IHC, using the Roman alphabet.)

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Calvary Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR

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Edgewood Cemetery, North Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR


The hand pointing up to heaven (look at the bottom of the stone)...
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Tate Cemetery, Pope Co., AR


I love the detail in the angel at the bottom of this flore' (floriated) cross:
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St. Peter and St. Paul Cemetery, Logan Co., AR


Mortality Symbols
From my pal at the office, a wonderful example of one of the earliest versions of the death head that was used in the United States, beginning in 1752:

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Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah, Chatham Co., GA
Photo courtesy of Larry and Darla Freeman


The hourglass...
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Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah, Chatham Co., GA
Photo courtesy of Larry and Darla Freeman


Inverted torches...
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Mount Holly Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR


Drapes - on obelisks and urns...
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Mount Holly Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR

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Oakland Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR


A tree, cut short...
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Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Shelby Co., TN


Other Symbols

The mourner, often shown as a weeping woman.

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Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Shelby Co., TN

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Calvary Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR


The weeping willow, a mourning symbol...
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Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah, Chatham Co., GA
Photo courtesy of Larry and Darla Freeman


The dove, universally known as a symbol of peace.
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Alpine Cemetery, Clark Co., AR


Stones placed on top of a gravestone come from the history of many cultures, including Native American tribes and nomadic Jews, who tended graves marked with mounds of stones in their travels.

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Oakland Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR
I spent some time checking out the section of Jewish burials in Oakland yesterday.

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A father and son who died just months apart...
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The Hebrew on the base of this one is an abbreviation of a verse from the Bible, the first book of Samuel, 25:29, "May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life."


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This gate at the back of the section just really intrigued me...it doesn't look as if it has been used in years but I wondered if at one time, Jews were required to enter and exit through this gate instead of the main gate.
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I highly recommend JewishGen for assistance with interpretation of symbols on Jewish gravestones.
In the summer of 2009, I went downtown to photograph some Civil War graves and monuments at the Little Rock National Cemetery for a possible volunteer project with the National Parks Service.

And Oakland is just next door...it's one of my favorites. One of my great-great grandmothers is buried there - something I did not learn until I had already been there multiple times and taken hundreds of images.

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Funerary symbols abound in old cemeteries.

I love the draped urn...a life snuffed out.

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Just sleeping...I think this one also qualifies as a hip tomb. (Note the resemblance to a hipped roof in the middle under the cover.)

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Not sure exactly what the symbolism is here...that the earth will cover the mortal remains, perhaps?

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Lots of obelisks...

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The child's stone is the tallest one in that family plot...

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Sarcophagi and mausoleums...

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And stones on the stone...a practice that is literally thousands of years old, and began in times when nomadic Jews stopped in their journeys to repair graves, heaping more stones and pebbles on top of shallow graves dug in rocky soils to prevent disturbance of the grave by animals.

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The practice of placing stones or pebbles on a grave has meaning in other cultures also, with stones representing the immortality of the soul

September 2014

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