How to Read Gravestone Symbols

Written by ehow arts & entertainment editor
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There are many interesting symbols on old gravestones, and trying to find out the meaning behind them can be an interesting hobby. So whether you're just getting started as a hobbyist or are a full-fledged tadophile (a person who has an interest in gravestones and cemeteries), this is a fun way to learn about the past.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Notebook
  • Camera
  • Computer

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  1. 1

    Create a journal of all of the different carvings and marks on headstones that you find, along with the dates of each. Then take photographs of each corresponding gravestone to keep track of where you've been.

  2. 2

    Go to a library, a local historical society or the Internet, and research what was going on in the area according to the dates you've collected. The meanings of symbols can vary from one community to another, or even from one year to another. For instance, something like an anchor could indicate that the person worked on the ocean in one place, while in another, it might symbolize hope. So, do as much research as you can before coming to any conclusions. In the past, people gave clues about those who had died by making intricate marks or odd symbols on gravestones. These markings could symbolize a person's ethnicity, religious affiliation, membership in any associations, or simply their standing in the community.

  3. 3

    Join a group dedicated to finding out the meanings of the symbols on gravestones. This is a great way to share and compare data, as well as work alongside others who have the same interests as you.

Tips and warnings

  • Reading gravestone symbols is not the same as doing grave rubbing. Some areas require not only permits, but permissions for rubbing graves, while reading gravestones is something you can easily do by yourself or in a group.

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