Presentation on theme: "Essential Question: How have attitudes toward the burial of the dead changed over time?"— Presentation transcript:
Essential Question: How have attitudes toward the burial of the dead changed over time?
Many of humanity’s earliest surviving artifacts are monuments to death. At least 500,000 years ago, human beings had already developed burial rituals. Many of the world’s greatest monuments, including the pyramids in Egypt or the gigantic earthen mounds erected by Native Americans, are tombs for the dead. In more recent times, graveyards provide valuable clues to shifting values. In this module, we will look at gravestones and tombstone inscriptions to trace fundamental shifts in beliefs.
During the 17th and 18th century, the dead were buried in “graveyards,” in “burial places,” or even “bone yards.” Beginning in the 19th century, the terminology shifted. The dead were buried in “cemeteries”—derived from the Greek word for “sleeping place.” What does this shift in terminology suggest about changing attitudes toward death?
Early grave yards were located near the center of communities. Beginning with the construction of Mount Auburn cemetery in a rural area near Boston in the early 19th century, the modern rural “park” cemetery appeared. This was a place where the living could commune with the dead in a park-like setting. What significance do you see in the movement of cemeteries from the community’s center to the periphery? Why do you think there were growing attempts to beautify places for the dead?
Between the 17th and the 19th century, the images of gravestones underwent a profound change, reflecting profound changes in attitudes toward death. One can trace a shift from a Puritan view, which viewed earthly existence with contempt and emphasized resignation in the face of death, to a Romantic view, which stressed hope for immortality and reunion of families in heaven along with the importance of grieving.
This early 18th century gravestone in New England is the earliest in this series. It depicts a winged skull with bones crossed beneath. On this stone, the skull has been transformed into an owl-like shape.
This stone is the last in this sequence. The head has no wings, but does have stylized wreath underneath and the interesting motif of a pair of scizzors. They symbolize the cutting off the deceased's life, i. e. his death. This gravestone shows a face with ray-like wings.
Many gravestones carry an epitaph, an inscription in memory of the dead. Sometimes the epitaph offers a warning to the young. Some express resignation in the face of death. In other instances the epitaph offers a brief description of the deceased.
To save your world you asked this man to die: Would this man, could he see you now, ask why? Epitaph for the Unknown Soldier W H Auden R.I.P LOOKING INTO THE PORTALS OF ETERNITY TEACHES THAT THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN IS INSPIRED BY GOD'S WORD; THEN ALL PREJUDICE OF RACE VANISHES AWAY. George Washington R.I.P
The Puritans, unlike many other religious groups, did not bury the dead near their meeting houses. The Puritans attached no spiritual significance to the body, and did not believe it needed to be buried on sacred ground. Further, since the Puritans did not believe that any person was assured of divine salvation, they did not think it would be appropriate to bury the dead where they worshipped. Puritans graveyards were often used as grazing grounds. They did not regard graveyards as spooky or sacred places that evoked fear or horror. Contrast Puritan attitudes toward death with those that are common today.
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