Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Reasons For Sunken Grave Headstones

     One of the most challenging aspects in the preservation of old cemeteries is the need to identify "unmarked" graves.  The term unmarked refers to a grave where the headstone or, any other form of identification, is missing. 

       Sometimes, however, the marker is where it is suppose to be, except it can not be seen.  Broken, fallen or even, sunken may be the reason.  Another explaination, one less thought of, is the accumulation of debris, mulch and compost.

 Broken headstone base. 
Notice the broken metal rods that pertrude from the center of the stone. 
The grove is where the actual headstone rests.

    In the two images below, note the lettering at the base of each visible headstone.  The remaining writing is under the surface.  There are two main reasons for this:  The stone, due to soften ground from rain saturation, sank into the ground.  The second cause is much more reasonable. 

   When a cemetery is left unattended, in this case for over thirty years, fallen debris, leaves and other material accumulate around the stone.  Over time, these things decay and become mulch, also known as compost.  Each yearly amount of mulch adds onto the previous amount. 

  When cemetery preservation work is first started, many headstones appear to have sunken into the ground when in reality, the ground rises up and over the headstone.

Mulch accomulation around two headstones which hides scripture
and other vital information such as, birth and death dates.

     In the case of this particular cemetery there is not less then five inches of mulch laying on top of the "original" ground surface.   Other areas of this cemetery, based on the amount of foliage decay, there is in excess of twelve inches of mulch surrounding or, covering grave headstones. 

    Image a surface grave marker, the ones that lay flat on the ground.  Now, imagine having thirty or, more, years of  mulch debris, covering the grave.

   Cemetery preservation is not a quick process.   Time, research and getting your fingernails dirty is a vital part of the work.

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to review this post.

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