Stones have been used as markers all over the world and in every culture from the beginning of time, and as long as people have been alive, they’ve have been buried after that were dead. By their very nature, stones are cold, and so are the dead people laying in their graves in cemeteries. Mourning the dead, marks a big difference between us humans and animals, as people enjoy remembering their past and they often imagine a future in which they will also die. Stones were originally used by prehistoric man to keep wild animals from digging up the gravesite. Burial has been a part of Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions surrounding death for as long as the religions have been documented.
Grave markers changed over time and many of the early ones were megalithic monuments that were used to mark an entire burial chamber rather than a single grave. In earlier times cemeteries did not exist and people were buried near their homes in plots where all their family members would be buried together in a group burial site. A grave stone was thought to have the ability to keep the soul down in this world which some people found comfort in. Other people felt that the stones would be able to keep demons and golems from getting into the graves. Since stone is grounded in the Earth, it has a stabilizing presence, which offers a permanence of memory and leaves us with the feeling that it will not die.
Within a great slab of stone lies all the mystery of the universe offering us a kind of capsuled history of something noble. This becomes a reflection into the past, something that is not easily understood and remains open for interpretation. Stones have this solidarity of permanence about them, because they remain both immutable and unchanging. People wanted to know where their loved ones were buried and since stones last a long time and they mostly stay where they are placed, using stones for grave markers helped to establish a great rapport between man and his environment. Over time man was able to improve on their stone craftsmanship to honor their dead.
This elaborate unmarked stone slab in Rouen, the English-controlled Normandy has been a curiosity for centuries. Recently archaeologists, historians, geologists and forensic experts have petitioned to get permission to investigate the remains buried below to see what it would reveal. This historical marker is thought to date back to the 1400’s and when the stone was lifted, French scientists were hoping to discover a skeleton, but they only found ashes and a piece of clothing. One of them surmised that these could be the ashes of Joan of Arc, who was burnt to death as a witch by the English. They also discovered the femur of a cat in this grave and it was a common medieval practice to throw a black cat on a witch’s pyre in order to appease the devil, however this femur was not burnt, which opens up another mystery.
Written for KL Caley’s Thursday photo prompt – The Secret in the Stone.