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Grave with burial vault awaiting coffin Fresh grave.JPG
Grave with burial vault awaiting coffin
The Steinbeck family graves in the Hamilton plot at the Salinas cemetery SteinbeckGrave.jpg
The Steinbeck family graves in the Hamilton plot at the Salinas cemetery
Grave with a cross with nails in Evros / Greece Grabkreuz mit Nageln.jpg
Grave with a cross with nails in Evros / Greece

A grave is a location where a dead body (typically that of a human, although sometimes that of an animal) is buried. Graves are usually located in special areas set aside for the purpose of burial, such as graveyards or cemeteries. [1]


Certain details of a grave, such as the state of the body found within it and any objects found with the body, may provide information for archaeologists about how the body may have lived before its death, including the time period in which it lived and the culture that it had been a part of.

In some religions, it is believed that the body must be burned for the soul to survive; in others, the complete decomposition of the body is considered to be important for the rest of the soul (see bereavement).


The formal use of a grave involves several steps with associated terminology.

Grave cut

The excavation that forms the grave. [2] Excavations vary from a shallow scraping to removal of topsoil to a depth of 6 feet (1.8 metres) or more where a vault or burial chamber is to be constructed. However, most modern graves in the United States are only 4 feet deep as the casket is placed into a concrete box (see burial vault) to prevent a sinkhole, to ensure the grave is strong enough to be driven over, and to prevent floating in the instance of a flood.

Excavated soil

The material dug up when the grave is excavated. It is often piled up close to the grave for backfilling and then returned to the grave to cover it. As soil decompresses when excavated and space is occupied by the burial not all the volume of soil fits back in the hole, so often evidence is found of remaining soil. In cemeteries this may end up as a thick layer of soil overlying the original ground surface.

Burial or interment

The body may be placed in a coffin or other container, in a wide range of positions, by itself or in a multiple burial, with or without personal possessions of the deceased.

Burial vault

A vault is a structure built within the grave to receive the body. It may be used to prevent crushing of the remains, allow for multiple burials such as a family vault, retrieval of remains for transfer to an ossuary, or because it forms a monument.

Grave backfill

The soil returned to the grave cut following burial. This material may contain artifacts derived from the original excavation and prior site use, deliberately placed goods or artifacts or later material. The fill may be left level with the ground or mounded.

Monument or marker

Headstones are best known, but they can be supplemented by decorative edging, foot stones, posts to support items, a solid covering or other options.

Graveyard and cemeteries

Graveyard in Varengeville-sur-Mer, France Cimetiere marin de Varengeville-sur-mer (Seine-Maritime).JPG
Graveyard in Varengeville-sur-Mer, France
Interior of the Jewish memorial in Bratislava, Slovakia (with the grave of the rabbi Chatam Sofer at the left). Mausoleum of Moses Sofer.jpg
Interior of the Jewish memorial in Bratislava, Slovakia (with the grave of the rabbi Chatam Sofer at the left).
"Sahide" grave in Alanya. Sahide grave alanya.jpg
"Sahide" grave in Alanya.

Graveyards were usually established at the same time as the building of the relevant place of worship (which can date back to the 8th to 14th centuries) and were often used by those families who could not afford to be buried inside or beneath the place of worship itself. In most cultures those who were vastly rich, had important professions, were part of the nobility or were of any other high social status were usually buried in individual crypts inside or beneath the relevant place of worship with an indication of the name of the deceased, date of death and other biographical data. In Europe this was often accompanied with a depiction of their family coat of arms.

Later graveyards have been replaced by cemeteries.

See also

Related Research Articles

Cemetery Place of burial

A cemetery or graveyard is a place where the remains of dead people are buried or otherwise interred. The word cemetery implies that the land is specifically designated as a burial ground and originally applied to the Roman catacombs. The term graveyard is often used interchangeably with cemetery, but a graveyard primarily refers to a burial ground within a churchyard.

Tomb burial place

A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes. Placing a corpse into a tomb can be called immurement, and is a method of final disposition, as an alternative to for example cremation or burial.

Burial Ritual act of placing a dead person into the ground

Burial or interment is a method of final disposition wherein a dead person or animal is placed into the ground, sometimes with objects. This is usually accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing the deceased and objects in it, and covering it over. A funeral is a ceremony that accompanies the final disposition. Humans have been burying their dead since shortly after the origin of the species. Burial is often seen as indicating respect for the dead. It has been used to prevent the odor of decay, to give family members closure and prevent them from witnessing the decomposition of their loved ones, and in many cultures it has been seen as a necessary step for the deceased to enter the afterlife or to give back to the cycle of life.

Crypt stone chamber or vault beneath the floor of a burial vault

A crypt is a stone chamber beneath the floor of a church or other building. It typically contains coffins, sarcophagi, or religious relics.

Grave goods objects placed intentionally in a grave

Grave goods, in archaeology and anthropology, are the items buried along with the body.

Burial vault (enclosure) container that encloses a coffin

A burial vault is a container, formerly made of wood or brick but more often today made of concrete, that encloses a coffin to help prevent a grave from sinking. Wooden coffins decompose, and often the weight of earth on top of the coffin, or the passage of heavy cemetery maintenance equipment over it, can cause the casket to collapse and the soil above it to settle.

Funeral and burial of Abraham Lincoln

After the April 14, 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, a three-week series of events mourned his death and memorialized his life. Funeral services and lyings in state were held in Washington, D.C., and then in additional cities as a funeral train transported his remains for burial in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln's eldest son Robert Todd rode the train to Baltimore and then disembarked and returned to the White House. Lincoln's wife Mary Todd Lincoln remained at the White House because she was too distraught to make the trip. Robert took a later train to Springfield for his father's final funeral and burial.

Disposal of human corpses, also called final disposition, is the practice and process of dealing with the remains of a deceased human being. Disposal methods may need to account for the fact that soft tissue will decompose relatively rapidly, while the skeleton will remain intact for thousands of years under certain conditions.

Churchyard patch of land adjoining or surrounding a church

In Christian countries a churchyard is a patch of land adjoining or surrounding a church, which is usually owned by the relevant church or local parish itself. In the Scots language and in Scottish English this can also be known as a kirkyard.

Enon Chapel church in City of Westminster, UK

Enon Chapel was a building located on Clement's Lane off Aldwych near the Strand in London and it was built around 1823. The upper part was dedicated to the worship of God, with the dead buried in a vault beneath, separated by a board floor. The chapel was notorious for allegations that thousands of bodies had been packed into the vault room in the space of 20 years.

Funerary art Art associated with a repository for the remains of the dead

Funerary art is any work of art forming, or placed in, a repository for the remains of the dead. The term encompasses a wide variety of forms, including cenotaphs, tomb-like monuments which do not contain human remains, and communal memorials to the dead, such as war memorials, which may or may not contain remains, and a range of prehistoric megalithic constructs. Funerary art may serve many cultural functions. It can play a role in burial rites, serve as an article for use by the dead in the afterlife, and celebrate the life and accomplishments of the dead, whether as part of kinship-centred practices of ancestor veneration or as a publicly directed dynastic display. It can also function as a reminder of the mortality of humankind, as an expression of cultural values and roles, and help to propitiate the spirits of the dead, maintaining their benevolence and preventing their unwelcome intrusion into the lives of the living.

The South Tombs Cemetery is an Ancient Egyptian necropolis in Amarna, Upper Egypt. It is the burial place of low status individuals from the ancient city of Akhetaten. The site is located close to the Southern Tombs of the Nobles. Archaeological excavation was undertaken by the Egypt Exploration Society between 2006 and 2013.

The Qumran cemetery is in eastern Qumran in the West Bank, part of Palestinian area which is under Israeli occupation. It is a large area leading to a descent from which four finger-like ridges point eastward. On these ridges more tombs are located. The current estimate of tombs in the cemetery is over 1100. The largest section, that on the plateau proper, has two east-west paths which divide it into three parts. There are also two small cemeteries near Qumran, one ten minutes' walk north of the main cemetery and one to the south, on the other side of Wadi Qumran.

Funeral practices and burial customs in the Philippines funeral practices and burial customs in the japan

During the Pre-Hispanic period the early Filipinos believed in a concept of life after death. This belief, which stemmed from indigenous ancestral veneration and was strengthened by strong family and community relations within tribes, prompted the Filipinos to create burial customs to honor the dead through prayers and rituals. Due to different cultures from various regions of the Philippines, many different burial practices have emerged. For example, the Manobos buried their dead in trees, the Ifugaos seated the corpse on a chari before it was brought to a cave and buried elsewhere. The most common forms of traditional burials are supine pits, earthenware jars, and log coffins, and have been a topic of interest among Philippine archaeologists since the early 20th century.

Taplow Barrow Medieval barrow in England

The Taplow Barrow is an early medieval burial mound in Taplow Court, an estate in the south-eastern English county of Buckinghamshire. Constructed in the seventh century, when the region was part of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, it contained the remains of a deceased individual and their grave goods, now mostly in the British Museum. It is often referred to in archaeology as the Taplow burial.

Burial in Anglo-Saxon England

Burial in Early Anglo-Saxon England refers to the grave and burial customs followed by the Anglo-Saxons between the mid 5th and 11th centuries CE in Early Mediaeval England. The variation of practice performed by the Anglo-Saxon peoples during this period, included the use of both cremation and inhumation. There is commonality in the burial places between the rich and poor - their resting places sit alongside one another in shared cemeteries. Both of these forms of burial were typically accompanied by grave goods, which included food, jewellery and weaponry. The actual burials themselves, whether of cremated or inhumed remains, were placed in a variety of sites, including in cemeteries, burial mounds or, more rarely, in ship burials.

Receiving vault structure designed to temporarily store dead bodies in winter months when the ground is too frozen to dig a permanent grave

A receiving vault or receiving tomb, sometimes also known as a public vault, is a structure designed to temporarily store dead bodies in winter months when the ground is too frozen to dig a permanent grave in a cemetery. Technological advancements in excavation, embalming, and refrigeration have rendered the receiving vault obsolete.

The archaeological sites Randlev and Hesselbjerg refer to two closely related excavations done throughout the 20th century near the village of Randlev in the Odder Municipality of Denmark, three kilometers southeast of the town of Odder. Randlev is known primarily for its Romanesque church constructed sometime around 1100 A.D. Hesselbjerg refers to the large Viking-Age cemetery discovered on the Hesselbjerg family farm and the site Randlev refers to the nearby settlement from the same period. Although both Randlev and Hesselbjerg were contemporaneous and encompass a similar area, Hesselbjerg refers more specifically to the 104 graves discovered prior to the later excavation at the site Randlev, which pertains to the Viking Age settlement. The settlement consisted of a farm complex that was likely active during the ninth and tenth centuries; finds from the site such as silver hoards and elaborate jewelry indicate that the farm was likely prosperous, a conjecture which is supported by the extremely fertile land surrounding the area. Artifacts were found in the vicinity of the Hesselbjerg and Randlev sites as early as 1932 when a local farmer discovered a silver hoard, but serious excavations were not conducted until 1963. These excavations ended in 1970; however, Moesgård Museum returned to the site in 1997 and continued analysis until 2010.

Digging process of removing material from a solid surface

Digging, also referred to as excavation, is the process of using some implement such as claws, hands, manual tools or heavy equipment, to remove material from a solid surface, usually soil or sand on the surface of the Earth. Digging is actually the combination of two processes, the first being the breaking or cutting of the surface, and the second being the removal and relocation of the material found there. In a simple digging situation, this may be accomplished in a single motion, with the digging implement being used to break the surface and immediately fling the material away from the hole or other structure being dug.

Fisher Mound Group Archaeological site in Illinois, United States

The Fisher Mound Group is a group of burial mounds with an associated village site located on the DesPlaines River near its convergence with the Kankakee River where they combine to form the Illinois River, in Will County, Illinois, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. It is a multi-component stratified site representing several Prehistoric Upper Mississippian occupations as well as minor Late Woodland and Early Historic components.


  1. Tütüncü, Mehmet (2015). "The Uppsala Mecca Painting: A New Source for the Cultural Topography and Historiography for Mecca". In Buitelaar, Marjo; Mols, Luitgard (eds.). Hajj: Global Interactions through Pilgrimage. Leiden: Sidestone Press. pp. 137–163. ISBN   978-90-8890-285-7.
  2. Ghamidi (2001), Customs and Behavioral Laws Archived 2013-09-23 at the Wayback Machine