Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Recycled gravestones are used for all sorts of purposes, including building foundations, patios, stone walls, walkways, new gravestones, and, apparently, jetties. Sometimes, these stones are irregulars or decommissioned stones*, but sometimes, they're just stolen. I don't get too offended when I see a gravestone used as part of an old cemetery wall, but I can't stand it when stones are stolen or vandalized so that the sculpture can be sold as art.**
I don't believe in ghosts or supernatural retribution, but I do believe that stealing gravestones and selling them as "folk art" (or scrap metal) is deeply immoral. If you are buying or selling an antique gravestone, you'd better have all the papers/evidence to prove that it is actually an irregular or that it has been legitimately deaccessioned. Many actual gravestones have mistakes on them, so the presence of a misspelling or correction is not evidence that the gravestone was never used.
Don't steal gravestones. Take a picture.
*There have been several stories in recent years about Shaker gravestones being auctioned off or used for building projects. These are generally stones that were de-sanctified in some way after Shaker communities decided to replace individual stones with single markers for the whole group.
** This is separate from the ongoing debate over whether old gravestones should be preserved in museums and replaced by replicas. I tend to come down on the side of leaving the originals where everyone can enjoy them, but I can see the other side on this issue. What makes me sick is people who steal the gravestones for private collectors.