Gravestones that were created by local stone carvers are more useful to the show the religious values of a given culture than are the mass-marketed generic grave markers currently popular throughout the United States.
In the nineteenth-century, families might call upon local stone carvers to capture in their art some common sacred concept.
Pointing index fingers, the nearly ubiquitous funerary urns and willow trees, hourglasses and stars were designed to convey some important message about the family or society's understanding of life, death, the profane, and the sacred.
The earliest markers erected in the Appalachian region of North America were generally simple and unrefined. The inscriptions on the earliest stones, if they had any inscriptions at all, have in many instances eroded away entirely