It should be noted that the views of religion and death changed significantly during the time period 1720-1820. Initially, death was regarded as a terrifying event and God’s punishment for one’s sins. People believed that, when someone died, they were sent to hell and there was no hope of salvation (Deetz & Dethlefsen, 1967). However, since the 1720s, English Protestants started to regard death as a reunion with God. They thought that death was associated with piety and, decades later, it was perceived as a temporal separation from one’s family.
specifically for you
for only $16.05 $11/page
Until the 18th century, gravestones reflected the fears of Puritans linked to their views of the horrors of the afterlife. For that reason, they would place a winged death skull on the grave and nothing more (Deetz & Dethlefsen, 1967). English Protestants rejected an idea of featuring anything on the gravestone that would reflect their religious views and believed that the death skull was the most favorable option. This design indicated how fragile humans were and how short their life was. Moreover, epitaphs placed a particular emphasis on exemplary behavior and diligence (Deetz & Dethlefsen, 1967). Gradually, the ideas of resurrection and salvage started to dominate the views of death and religion, which led to changes in the gravestone design. The inscriptions on gravestones emphasized the mortality of the human body but stressed the immortality of the soul. To reflect these changing views, the skull was replaced with a carving of winged cherub accompanied by urns and willows.
Thus, an evident cultural shift allowed drawing conclusions regarding the Puritan society of New England. The new design was firstly introduced on the graves of the representatives of the cosmopolitan social class and gradually spread across regions. This indicated that people were ready to adopt the orthodox Puritanism modifications. However, some of these modifications were not featured on minor’s graves, which meant that Puritans were more conservative when burying children.
Deetz, J., & Dethlefsen, E. S. (1967). Death’s head, cherub, urn and willow. Natural History, 76(3), 29-37.