Tomb: Wikis


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A type of tomb: a mausoleum in Le Père Lachaise cemetery.

A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes. The word is used in a broad sense to encompass a number of such types of places of interment or, occasionally, burial, including:

  • Burial vaults – stone or brick-lined underground spaces for interment (rather than burial), originally vaulted, often privately owned for specific family groups; usually beneath a religious building such as a church or in a churchyard or cemetery
  • Church monuments – within a church (or tomb-style chests in a churchyard) may be places of interment, but this is unusual; they more commonly stand over the grave or burial vault rather than containing the actual body and are therefore not tombs
  • Crypts – often, though not always, for interment; similar to burial vaults but usually for more general public interment
  • Hypogeum tombs - stone-built underground structures for interment, such as the tombs of ancient Egypt
  • Martyria - Mausolea for the remains of martyrs, such as San Pietro in Montorio
  • Mausolea (including ancient pyramids in some countries) – external free-standing structures, above ground, acting as both monument and place of interment, usually for individuals or family group
  • Megalithic tombs (including Chamber tombs) – prehistoric places of interment, often for large communities, constructed of large stones and originally covered with an earthen mound
  • Sarcophagi – stone containers for bodies or coffins, often decorated and perhaps part of a monument; these may stand within religious buildings or greater tombs or mausolea
  • Sepulchres – cavernous rock-cut spaces for interment, generally in the Jewish or Christian faiths
  • Architectural shrines – in Christianity, an architectural shrine above a saint's first place of burial, as opposed to a similar shrine on which stands a reliquary or feretory into which the saint's remains have been transferred
  • Other forms of archaeological 'tombs' such as ship burials

As indicated, tombs are generally located in or under religious buildings, such as churches, or in cemeteries or churchyards. However, they may also be found in catacombs, on private land or, in the case of early or pre-historic tombs, in what is today open landscape.

The tomb of Emperor Nintoku (the 16th emperor of Japan) is the largest in the world by area. However, the Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt is the largest by volume.

See also

The Pyramid tomb of Khufu

Coordinates: 29°51′18″N 31°13′08″E / 29.855°N 31.219°E / 29.855; 31.219

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
(Redirected to The Tomb article)

From Wikisource

The Tomb
by H. P. Lovecraft
Listen to this text, read by jpontoli (14MB, help | file info or download)
"Sedibus ut saltem placidis in morte quiescam."[1]

      In relating the circumstances which have led to my confinement within this refuge for the demented, I am aware that my present position will create a natural doubt of the authenticity of my narrative. It is an unfortunate fact that the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence those isolated phenomena, seen and felt only by a psychologically sensitive few, which lie outside its common experience. Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal; that all things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them; but the prosaic materialism of the majority condemns as madness the flashes of super-sight which penetrate the common veil of obvious empiricism.

      My name is Jervas Dudley, and from earliest childhood I have been a dreamer and a visionary. Wealthy beyond the necessity of a commercial life, and temperamentally unfitted for the formal studies and social recreations of my acquaintances, I have dwelt ever in realms apart from the visible world; spending my youth and adolescence in ancient and little-known books, and in roaming the fields and groves of the region near my ancestral home. I do not think that what I read in these books or saw in these fields and groves was exactly what other boys read and saw there; but of this I must say little, since detailed speech would but confirm those cruel slanders upon my intellect which I sometimes overhear from the whispers of the stealthy attendants around me. It is sufficient for me to relate events without analysing causes.

      I have said that I dwelt apart from the visible world, but I have not said that I dwelt alone. This no human creature may do; for lacking the fellowship of the living, he inevitably draws upon the companionship of things that are not, or are no longer, living. Close by my home there lies a singular wooded hollow, in whose twilight deeps I spent most of my time; reading, thinking and dreaming. Down its moss-covered slopes my first steps of infancy were taken, and around its grotesquely gnarled oak trees my first fancies of boyhood were woven. Well did I come to know the presiding dryads of those trees, and often have I watched their wild dances in the struggling beams of waning moon--but of these things I must not now speak. I will tell only of the lone tomb in the darkest of the hillside thickets; the deserted tomb of the Hydes, an old and exalted family whose last direct descendant had been laid within its black recesses many decades before my birth.

      The vault to which I refer is an ancient granite, weathered and discoloured by the mists and dampness of generations. Excavated back into the hillside, the structure is visible only at the entrance. The door, a ponderous and forbidding slab of stone, hangs upon rusted iron hinges, and is fastened ajar in a queerly sinister way by means of heavy iron chains and padlocks, according to a gruesome fashion of half a century ago. The abode of the race whose scions are inurned had once crowned the declivity which holds the tomb, but had long since fallen victim to the flames which sprang up from a disastrous stroke of lighting. Of the midnight storm which destroyed this gloomy mansion, the older inhabitants of the region sometimes speak in hushed and uneasy voices; alluding to what they call "divine wrath" in a manner that in later years vaguely increased the always strong fascination which I felt for the forest-darkened sepulchre. One man only had perished in the fire. When the last of the Hydes was buried in this place of shade and stillness, the sad urnful of ashes had come from a distant land; to which the family had repaired when the mansion burned down. No one remains to lay flowers before the granite portal, and few care to brave the depressing shadows which seem to linger strangely about the water-worn stones.

      I shall never forget the afternoon when first I stumbled upon the half-hidden house of the dead. It was in mid-summer, when the alchemy of Nature transmutes the sylvan landscape to one vivid and almost homogeneous mass of green; when the senses are well-nigh intoxicated with the surging seas of moist verdure and the subtly indefinable odours of the soil and the vegetation. In such surroundings the mind loses its perspective; time and space become trivial and unreal, and echoes of a forgotten prehistoric past beat insistently upon the enthralled consciousness. All day I had been wandering through the mystic groves of the hollow; thinking thoughts I need not discuss, and conversing with things I need not name. In years a child of ten, I had seen and heard many wonders unknown to the throng; and was oddly aged in certain respects. When, upon forcing my way between two savage clumps of briers, I suddenly encountered the entrance of the vault, I had no knowledge of what I had discovered. The dark blocks of granite, the door so curiously ajar, and the funereal carvings above the arch, arounsed in me no associations of mournful or terrible character. Of graves and tombs I knew and imagined much, but had on account of my peculiar temperament been kept from all personal contact with churchyards and cemeteries. The strange stone house on the woodland slope was to me only a source of interest and speculation; and its cold, damp interior, into which I vainly peered through the aperture so tantalisingly left, contained for me no hint of death or decay. But in that instant of curiosity was born the madly unreasoning desire which has brought me to this hell of confinement. Spurred on by a voice which must have come from the hideous soul of the forest, I resolved to enter the beckoning gloom in spite of the ponderous chains which barred my passage. In the waning light of day I alternately rattled the rusty impediments with a view to throwing wide the stone door, and essayed to squeeze my slight form through the space already provided; but neither plan met with success. At first curious, I was not frantic; and when in the thickening twilight I returned to my home, I had sworn to the hundred gods of the grove that at any cost I would some day force an entrance to the black chilly depths that seemed calling out to me. The physician with the iron-grey beard who comes each day to my room once told a visitor that this decision marked the beginnings of a pitiful monomania; but I will leave final judgement to my readers when they shall have learnt all.

      The months following my discovery were spent in futile attempts to force the complicated padlock of the slightly open vault, and in carefully guarded inquiries regarding the nature and history of the structure. With the traditionally receptive ears of the small boy, I learned much; though an habitual secretiveness caused me to tell no one of my information or my resolve. It is perhaps worth mentioning that I was not at all surprised or terrified on learning of the nature of the vault. My rather original ideas regarding life and death had caused me to associate the cold clay with the breathing body in a vague fashion; and I felt that the great sinister family of the burned-down mansion was in some way represented within the stone space I sought to explore. Mumbled tales of the weird rites and godless revels of bygone years in the ancient hall gave to me a new and potent interest in the tomb, before whose door I would sit for hours at a time each day. Once I thrust a candle within the nearly closed entrance, but could see nothing save a flight of damp stone steps leading downward. The odour of the place repelled yet bewitched me. I felt I had known it before, in a past remote beyond all recollection; beyond even my tenancy of the body I now possess.

      The year after I first beheld the tomb, I stumbled upon a worm-eaten translation of Plutarch's Lives in the book-filled attic of my home. Reading the life of Theseus, I was much impressed by that passage telling of the great stone beneath which the boyish hero was to find his tokens of destiny whenever he should become old enough to lift its enourmous weight. This legend had the effect of dispelling my keenest impatience to enter the vault, for it made me feel that the time was not yet ripe. Later, I told myself, I should grow to a strength and ingenuity which might enable me to unfasten the heavily chained door with ease; but until then I would do better by conforming to what seemed the will of Fate.

      Accordingly my watches by the dank portal became less persistent, and much of my time was spent in other though equally strange pursuits. I would sometimes rise very quietly in the night, stealing out to walk in those churchyards and places of burial from which I had been kept by my parents. What I did there I may not say, for I am not now sure of the reality of certain things; but I know that on the day after such a nocturnal ramble I would often astonish those about me with my knowledge of topics almost forgotten for many generations. It was after a night like this that I shocked the community with a queer conceit about the burial of the rich and celebrated Squire Brewster, a maker of local history who was interred in 1711, and whose slate headstone, bearing a graven skull and crossbones, was slowly crumbling to power. In a moment of childish imagination I vowed not only that the undertaker, Goodman Simpson, had stolen the silver-buckled shoes, silken hose, and satin small-clothes of the deceased before burial; but that the Squire himself, not fully inanimate, had turned twice in his mound-covered coffin on the day of interment.

      But the idea of entering the tomb never left my thoughts; being indeed stimulated by the unexpected genealogical discover that my own maternal ancestry possessed at least a slight link with the supposedly extinct family of the Hydes. Last of my paternal race, I was likewise the last of this older and more mysterious line. I began to feel that the tomb was mine, and to look forward with hot eagerness to the time when I might pass within that stone door and down those slimy stone steps in the dark. I now formed the habit of listening very intently at the slightly open portal, choosing my favourite hours of midnight stillness for the odd vigil. By the time I came of age, I had made a small clearing in the thicket before the mould-stained facade of the hillside, allowing the surrounding vegetation to encircle and overhang the space like the walls and roof of sylvan bower. This bower was my temple, the fastened door my shrine, and here I would lie outstretched on the mossy ground, thinking strange thoughts and dreaming of strange dreams.

      The night of the first revelation was a sultry one. I must have fallen asleep from fatigue, for it was with a distinct sense of awakening that I heard the voices. Of those tones and accents I hesitate to speak; of their quality I will not speak; but I may say that they presented certain uncanny differences in vocabulary, pronunciation, and mode of utterance. Every shade of New England dialect, from the uncouth syllables of the Puritan colonists to the precise rhetoric of fifty years ago, seemed represented in that shadowy colloquy, though it was only later that I noticed the fact. At the time, indeed, my attention was distracted from this matter by another phenomenon; a phenomenon so fleeting that I could not take oath upon its reality. I barely fancied that as I awoke, a light had been hurriedly extinguished within the sunken sepulchre. I do not think I was either astounded or panic-stricken, but I know that I was greatly and permanently changed that night. Upon returning home I went with much directness to a rotting chest in the attic, wherein I found the key which next day unlocked with ease the barrier I had so long stormed in vain.

      It was in the soft glow of late afternoon that I first entered the vault on the abandoned slope. A spell was upon me, and my heart leaped with an exultation I can but ill describe. As I closed the door behind me and descended the dripping steps by the light of my lone candle, I seemed to know the way; and though the candle sputtered with the stifling reek of the place, I felt singularly at home in the musty, charnel-house air. Looking about me, I beheld many marble slabs bearing coffins, or the remains of coffins. Some of these were sealed and intact, but others had nearly vanished, leaving the silver handles and plates isolated amidst certain curious heaps of whitish dust. Upon one plate I read the name of Sir Geoffrey Hyde, who had come from Sussex in 1640 and died here a few years later. In a conspicuous alcove was one fairly well-preserved and untenanted casket, adorned with a single name which brought to me both a smile and a shudder. An odd impulse caused me to climb upon the broad slab, extinguish my candle, and lie down within the vacant box.

      In the grey light of dawn I staggered from the vault and locked the chain of the door behind me. I was no longer a young man, though but twenty-one winters had chilled my bodily frame. Early-rising villagers who observed my homeward progress looked at me strangely, and marvelled at the signs of ribald revelry which they saw in one whose life was known to be sober and solitary. I did not appear before my parents till after a long and refreshing sleep.

      Henceforward I haunted the tomb each night; seeing, hearing, and doing things I must never reveal. My speech, always susceptible to environmental influences, was the first thing to succumb to the change; and my suddenly acquired archaism of diction was soon remarked upon. Later a queer boldness and recklessness came into my demeanour, till I unconsciously grew to possess the bearing of a man of the world despite my lifelong seclusion. My formerly silent tongue waxed voluble with the easy grace of a Chesterfield or the godless cynicism of a Rochester. I displayed a peculiar erudition utterly unlike the fantastic, monkish lore over which I had pored in youth; and covered the flyleaves of my books with facile impromptu epigrams which brought up suggestions of Gay, Prior, and the sprightliest of Augustan wits and rimesters. One morning at breakfast I came close to disaster by declaiming in palpably liquourish accents an effusion of eighteenth-century Bacchanalian mirth; a bit of Georgian playfulness never recorded in a book, which ran something like this:

Come hither, my lads, with your tankards of ale,
And drink to the present before it shall fail;
Pile each on your platter a mountain of beef,
For 'tis eating and drinking that bring us relief:
So fill up your glass,
So life will soon pass;
When you're dead ye'll ne'er drink to your king or your lass!
Anacreon had a red nose, so they say;
But what's a red nose if ye're happy and gay?
Gad split me! I'd rather be red whilst I'm here,
Than white as a lily--and dead half a year!
So Betty, my miss,
Come give me kiss;
In hell there's no innkeeper's daughter like this!
Young Harry, propp'd up just as straight as he's able,
Will soon lose his wig and slip under the table;
But fill up your goblets and pass 'em around--
Better under the table than under the ground!
So revel and chaff
As ye thirstily quaff:
Under six feet of dirt 'tis less easy to laugh!
The fiend strike me blue! I'm scarce able to walk,
And damn me if I can stand upright or talk!
Here, landlord, bid Betty to summon a chair;
I'll try home for a while, for my wife is not there!
So lend me a hand;
I'm not able to stand,
But I'm gay whilst I linger on top of the land!

      About this time I conceived my present fear of fire and thunderstorms. Previously indifferent to such things, I had now an unspeakable horror of them; and would retire to the innermost recesses of the house whenever the heavens threatened an electrical display. A favourite haunt of mine during the day was the ruined cellar of the mansion that had burned down, and in fancy I would picture the structure as it had been in its prime. On one occasion I startled a villager by leading him confidently to a shallow sub-cellar, of whose existence I seemed to know in spite of the fact that it had been unseen and forgotten for many generations.

      At last came that which I had long feared. My parents, alarmed at the altered manner and appearance of their only son, commenced to exert over my movements a kindly espionage which threatened to result in disaster. I had told no one of my visits to the tomb, having guarded my secret purpose with religious zeal since childhood; but now I was forced to exercise care in threading the mazes of the wooded hollow, that I might throw off a possible pursuer. My key to the vault I kept suspended from a cord about my neck, its presence known only to me. I never carried out of the sepulchre any of the things I came upon whilst within its walls.

      One morning as I emerged from the damp tomb and fastened the chain of the portal with none too steady hand, I beheld in an adjacent thicket the dreaded face of a watcher. Surely the end was near; for my bower was discovered, and the objective of my nocturnal journeys revealed. The man did not accost me, so I hastened home in an effort to overhear what he might report to my careworn father. Were my sojourns beyond the chained door about to be proclaimed to the world? Imagine my delighted astonishment on hearing the spy inform my parent in cautious whisper that I had spent the night in the bower outside the tomb; my sleep-filmed eyes fixed upon the crevice where the padlocked portal stood ajar! By what miracle had the watcher been thus deluded? I was now convinced that a supernatural agency protected me. Made bold by this heaven-sent circumstance, I began to resume perfect openness in going to the vault; confident that no one could witness my entrance. For a week I tasted to the full the joys of that charnel conviviality which I must not describe, when the thing happened, and I was borne away to this accursed abode of sorrow and monotony.

      I should not have ventured out that night; for the taint of thunder was in the clouds, and hellish phosphorescence rose from the rank swamp at the bottom of the hollow. The call of the dead, too, was different. Instead of the hillside tomb, it was the charred cellar on the crest of the slope whose presiding daemon beckoned to me with unseen fingers. As I emerged from an intervening grove upon the plain before the ruin, I beheld in the misty moonlight a thing I had always vaguely expected. The mansion, gone for a century, once more reared its stately height to the raptured vision; every window ablaze with the splendour of many candles. Up the long drive rolled the coaches of the Boston gentry, whilst on foot came a numerous assemblage of powdered exquisites from the neighbouring mansions. With this throng I mingled, though I knew I belonged with the hosts rather than the guests. Inside the hall were music, laughter, and wine on every hand. Several faces I recognised; though I should have known them better had they been shrivelled or eaten away by death and decomposition. Amidst a wild and reckless throng I was the wildest and most abandoned. Gay blasphemy poured in torrents from my lips, and in my shocking sallies I heeded no law of God, Man, or Nature. Suddenly a peal of thunder, resonant even above the din of the swinish revelry, clave the very roof and laid a hush of fear upon the boisterous company. Red tongues of flame and searing gusts of heat engulfed the house; and the roysterers, struck with terror at the descent of a calamity which seemed to transcend the bounds of unguided Nature, fled shrieking into the night. I alone remained, riveted to my seat by a grovelling fear which I had never felt before. And then a second horror took possession of my soul. Burnt alive to ashes, my body dispersed by the four winds, I might never lie in the tomb of Hydes! Was not my coffin prepared for me? Had I not a right to rest till eternity amongst the descendants of Sir Geoffrey Hyde? Aye! I would claim my heritage of death, even though my soul go seeking through the ages for another corporeal tenement to represent it on that vacant slab in the alcove of the vault. Jervas Hyde should never share the sad fate of Palinurus!

      As the phantom of the burning house faded, I found myself screaming and struggling madly in the arms of two men, one of whom was the spy who had followed me to the tomb. Rain was pouring down in torrents, and upon the southern horizon were flashes of the lightning that had so lately passed over our heads. My father, his face lined with sorrow, stood by as I shouted my demands to be laid within the tomb; frequently admonishing my captors to treat me as gently as they could. A blackened circle on the floor of the ruined cellar told of a violent stroke from the heavens; and from this spot a group of curious villagers with lanterns were prying a small box of antique workmanship which the thunderbolt had brought to light. Ceasing my futile and now objectless writhing, I watched the spectators as they viewed the treasure-trove, and was permitted to share in their discoveries. The box, whose fastenings were broken by the stroke which had unearthed it, contained many papers and objects of value; but I had eyes for one thing alone. It was the porcelain miniature of a young man in a smartly curled bag-wig, and bore the initials "J.H." The face was such that as I gazed, I might well have been studying my mirror.

      On the following day I was brought to this room with the barred windows, but I have been kept informed of certain things through an aged and simple-minded servitor, for whom I bore a fondness in infancy, and who like me loves the churchyard. What I have dared relate of my experiences within the vault has brought me only pitying smiles. My father, who visits me frequently, declares that at no time did I pass the chained portal, and swears that the rusted padlock had not been touched for fifty years when he examined it. He even says that all the village knew of my journeys to the tomb, and that I was often watched as I slept in the bower outside the grim facade, my half-open eyes fixed on the crevice that leads to the interior. Against these assertions I have no tangible proof to offer, since my key to the padlock was lost in the struggle on that night of horrors. The strange things of the past which I learnt during those nocturnal meetings with the dead he dismisses as the fruits of my lifelong and omnivorous browsing amongst the ancient volumes of the family library. Had it not been for my old servant Hiram, I should have by this time become quite convinced of my madness.

      But Hiram, loyal to the last, has held faith in me, and has done that which impels me to make public at least a part of my story. A week ago he burst open the lock which chains the door of the tomb perpetually ajar, and descended with a lantern into the murky depths. On a slab in an alcove he found an old but empty coffin whose tarnished plate bears the single word "Jervas". In that coffin and in that vault they have promised me I shall be buried.


  1. The Aeneid Book VI Line 371 (in Latin)
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TOMB (Gr. Tiw i 3a, Ti)p 30s, probably allied to Lat. tumulus, literally a swelling, tumere, to swell), a general term for a place of burial for the dead, including the excavation or cavity in which the body is laid and the superstructure which marks the place.

(See Burial and Funeral Rites.) The various forms which the tomb has taken throughout the ages are treated under such heads as Barrow; Cairn; Tumulus; Cenotaph; Sarcophagus; &C.

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

From the earliest times the Hebrews practised burial of the dead ( (missing hebrew text) , whence "ḳeber" = "tomb"), so that cremation, which was customary among the Moabites and Edomites, was regarded by the Jewish prophets as sinful and inhuman (Amos 2:1), and was used only as an additional punishment in the case of criminals (Josh 7:25; but see 1Sam 31:12). The most primitive mode of burial seems to have been either to throw the corpse into a pit or to pile stones over it wherever it happened to be at the time of death, an analogy being found in the Mosaic law that the blood of animals which had been killed must be covered with dust on the place where it had been poured out (Lev 17:13). According to Josh 7:26, the remains of Achan were buried under a heap of stones in the valley of Achor, and the corpse of a conquered king was similarly interred (ib. viii. 29), while Absalom's body was thrown into a pit in the forest, and covered with stones (2 Sam 18:17). Adam and Eve are said to have been taught interment by seeing a raven bury its young in the sand (Pirḳe R. El. xxi.), and even Moses interred an Egyptian in the very place where he had killed him (Ex 2:12).


Single Tombs.

Single burial was customary in ancient times, as is still the case among many peoples and in many lands. The most natural method was to bury one's dead near the house on one's own land, as is clear from 1Sam 25:1 and 1 Kg 2:34, while the latter passage, which refers to Joab, shows that this custom was not restricted to the burial of kings and prophets, as Winer ("B. R." i. 444) has supposed. The custom of interring Jewish kings in their castles, close to the Temple wall, is severely condemned by the prophet (Ezek 43:7-9), this criticism showing that graves were considered unclean, and were therefore not to be made near human habitations (Num 19:16). Graves were, accordingly, outside the cities (Lk 7:12; Jn 11:30), or, according to rabbinical precepts, fifty ells from the town (B. B. ii. 9). A special field thus came to be set apart for the dead, but the simple methods of burial observed by the Jews prevented any development of a necropolis resembling the Greek or the modern Italian type. Special care was taken to keep lepers separated from others in death as well as in life, and the body of a leprous king was accordingly buried in the open field (2Chr 26:23). The graves of the common people were likewise kept separate from those of the wealthy and prominent (2Kg 23:6; Jer 26:23).

The tomb is to the dead what the house is to the living, so that the grave is termed a "house" (Isa 14:18), or the "long home" (Eccl 12:5), while in Job 30:23 it is called "the house appointed for all living." The terrors associated with it are expressed by the terms "pit" (Isa 14:19, xxxviii. 18), or "pit of destruction" (Ps 5524), while the appropriate metaphor "silence" (ib. xciv. 17, cxv. 17) is still in current use among the Jews. The powers of death are implied by the words "hell" ("sheol") and "destruction" ("abaddon"; Prov 15:11; Job 26:6). The later Jewish terms, on the other hand, contain no allusion to the horror of death, thecemetery being called simply the "house of graves" ( (missing hebrew text) ), or the "house of eternity" ( (missing hebrew text) ; see Eccl 12:5.), or even, in a euphemistic sense, the "house of life" ( (missing hebrew text) ).

Family Sepulchers.

The wealthy and prominent followed the custom of the neighboring country of Egypt, and prepared their tombs in their own lifetime, often on an elaborate scale, as is evident from the allusions to Jacob (Gen 49:29, 30; l. 5, 13), Asa (2Chr 16:14), Shebna (Isa 22:16), and Joseph of Arimathea (Mt 27:60), the reference in all these instances being to family sepulchers, which were the rule. This is confirmed by such phrases, frequently used in mentioning the Patriarchs and David, as "gathered unto his fathers," "slept with his fathers," or "gathered unto his people." Not only was this true of kings and men of prominence (2Kg 9:28; 2Chr 32:33, xxxv. 24; 1Macc 2:70, ix. 19, xiii. 25), but the custom was a general one (Gen 23:20; Jdg 8:32; 2 Sam 2:32; 1 Kg 13:22; Tob 14:10), and it was the natural desire of those who died away from home to be buried in the family grave (Gen 47:29; 2 Sam 19:38; 1 Kg 13:22, 31; Neh 2:3). One who could not hope to be interred thus was at least eager to rest in his native country (2 Macc 5:10) and in holy ground (Josephus,"Ant." x. 4, § 3). From the Talmudic period to the present time it has been the desire of all pious Jews to be buried in the sacred soil of Palestine; and the Talmud itself enumerates instances of prominent men who were interred there. This custom has increased in the course of time to such an extent that many Jews make a point of spending their last days in Palestine so as to be buried there.

Desecration and Consecration.

Desecration of a tomb was regarded as a grievous sin, and in ancient times the sanctity of the grave was evidenced by the fact that it was chosen as a place of worship, thus explaining the circumstance that a sacred stone ("maẓẓebah") was set on Rachel's grave, and that sacred trees or stones always stood near the tombs of the righteous. The ancient Bedouin custom of placing the graves of their ancestors and of men of superior sanctity on high mountain peaks was imitated by the Israelites, who located the tomb of Aaron on Mount Hor. The mountain summit thus became a place of worship of the divinity, and may, by a slight extension of the term, be designated as taboo, since it was partly holy and partly unclean. Traces of such places of worship can still be found in Palestine, and the Mohammedans in like manner use high places as burial-grounds. "In this respect the usage corresponds precisely to what we find to-day. The 'maḳam' is the place of the saint. It is preferably on a hilltop, but may simply be a tomb of a saint in a rude enclosure under the open heavens, or the tomb may be in a little building, usually with a dome, called a 'ḳubbah '" (Curtiss, "Primitive Semitic Religion To-Day," p. 143, London,1902; see illustration annexed to p. 178: "Grave of Holy Man near Medeba")

No stranger might be interred in a family sepulcher (Mt 27:60); and the Nabatæan inscriptions contain curses against those who desecrate the family tombs (Neubauer, in "Studia Biblica," i. 212), a similar inscription being found on the sarcophagus of Eshmunazar, King of Sidon. Freedmen, however, were buried in the family tombs of their former masters. Violation of the tomb was punishable by fines (Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., iii. 54).


The preference for family sepulchers resulted in the development of a monumental style of tomb in Palestine as elsewhere. Although such structures afforded ample opportunity for a display of pomp and for the employment of sculpture and painting, as is shown by Egypt, the Jews did not bend their energies in that direction. Despite their insignificant appearance, however, these tombs are the very ones which testify to the activity of the former inhabitants of the country, since the graves, hewn into the solid rock, have shown themselves proof against decay. Few of these tombs reflected any architectural credit on the Jews, since they were mere feeble imitations of the work of the Phenicians and developed no originality of their own.

Interment in the rocks of the hills was suggested to the Phenicians by the natural conformation of the country, which contained caves everywhere that required artificial agencies only for the final touch. These cave-tombs were often situated at heights which seemed almost inaccessible; and where no natural caverns were formed in the walls of the rock, rectangular and roomy caves were artificially made by hewing excavations into the stone from above, while occasionally subterranean chambers were cut with lofty walls in which the graves were made. According to a Palestinian explorer, "the Phenician sepulchral chambers at Sidon and at Tyre consist for the most part of quadrangular vaults with three half-arched niches, one facing the entrance, and the other two on the sides. The Jewish tombs, on the other hand, are low, oblong chambers with many rows of partitions, so that the corpses are separated only by a small stone ridge. The Phenician structures apparently contained sarcophagi, while the plan of the Jewish tombs shows that they were intended for corpses wrapped in cloth" (Van de Velde, "Reise Durch Syrien und Palästina," German transl. by K. Göbel, i. 235, Leipsic, 1855).

According to the results thus far obtained, three different types of Palestinian tombs may be distinguished:


Tombs hewn in the rock, which are the most numerous, since the soft limestone of the Palestinian hills favored their construction. A characteristic feature of these tombs is the preference for entire walls instead of pillars (Renan, "Mission de Phénicie," p. 822). These Jewish sepulchers are simple, having nothing in common with the Egyptian pyramids. They are entirely unadorned with paintings; and only those of a comparatively recent period contain inscriptions. Of this type of tombs three varieties may be distinguished:


Single chambers without doors or other means of closing them and with but one grave, hewn vertically into the ground.


Single chambers with several graves, which might be either


shelf-graves, in which the corpses were laid on stone shelves which ran along the sides of the rock and which were often hewn breadthwise into it, so that a sort of overhanging vault ("arcosolia") was formed; or


thrust-graves, quadrangular galleries, which were cut lengthwise into the cliff, and into which the bodies were thrust horizontally. These galleries, or niches, which were called "kok" (plural, "kokim") by the Rabbis, had a length of about 1.8 meter, a width of 0.45 meter, and a height of 0.45 meter, and may be regarded as the specifically Jewish type of grave.


Tombs of large size with connecting chambers, which, if not located in a natural cave about the level of the ground, were reached by small stairways hewn into the rock. Tombs entered by vertical shafts, like those constructed by the Egyptians, have not thus far been discovered in Palestine.


Artificial tombs, which are of later date and occur less frequently. They may be compared with the modern Egyptian graves, which consist of "an oblong vault, having an arched roof, . . . made large enough to contain four or more bodies. Over the vault is constructed an oblong monument (called 'tarkeebeh') of stone or brick, with a stela or upright stone ('shahid') at the head and foot" (Lane, "Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians," ii. 302, London, 1846; 5th ed. ii. 265).


Sarcophagi, which were anthropoid in shape among the Phenicians, but which consisted in their Hebrew type simply of troughs, cut to the length of the body and hewn vertically in the walls. They were, therefore, virtually shelf-graves, although they also bore a certain resemblance to the vertical tombs.

The two types chiefly known to the Rabbis were thrust-graves ("kokim") and vertical graves ("ḳebarot"), neither of which might be constructed on a festival, although it was permitted to dedicate the former if the communal interests required it (M. Ḳ. i. 6). A tannaitic and an amoraic saying state that kokim were dug, while ḳebarot were built. Thrust-graves were so little known among the Jews of the later period that Maimonides did not mention them in his codification of the passages bearing on the subject, alluding only to the earth-grave ("ḳeber"). A section of the Mishnah, however, clearly explains the construction of a family tomb (B. B. vi. 8).

In case one sold a place of burial to an associate, or obtained one from him, he might make the inner room four ells broad and six ells long, the height of the cave being given in Tosef., B. B. vi. 22 as four ells. In this room, moreover, he might construct eight cavities, three in either side wall, and two in the narrow wall facing the entrance. Each cavity was four ells in length, seven in height, and six in width (the Tosef., however, made the height seven "ṭefaḥim," or handbreadths, an extra ṭefaḥ. being added for the arched cover of the sarcophagus).

According to R. Simeon, "the inner room of the cave is six ells broad and eight ells long, and it contains thirteen cavities, four on the right, four on the left, three opposite the entrance, and one on each side of it." The owner of the ground on which the tomb was situated was required to grant a frontage of six ells square, so as to admit the bier and its bearers. The purchaser of the vault might from its interior open an additional one to the right and one to the left of the original tomb. In the opinion of R. Simeon, however, the purchaser might open an additional vault on each of the four sides, while R. Simeon b. Gamaliel regarded this as dependent on the formation of the rock (see Samuel b. Meïr's commentary ad loc., and the plan given in all editions of the Talmud).

As the honor of the dead was carefully guarded, the Talmud entered into a discussion of R. Simeon's scheme of construction, which allowed two graves at the entrance since visitors to the tomb wouldnecessarily have to step on them. To the suggestion that they might project from the wall like bolts from a door, the retort was given that not even an ass (or, according to Yer., not even a dog) would be buried in such a fashion. They could, therefore, be located only in the corners of the cave opposite the entrance, and must have been sunk deep in the wall, otherwise they would have touched each other (B. B. 101b). The Palestinian source, however, presupposes a special construction of the cave itself, and considers it allowable to have two cavities, one above the other, provided the cave was protected against trampling (Yer. B. B. 15c).

Laws About Tombs.

A field in which such graves were located was subject to special laws. Trees might not be planted upon it, nor might seed be sown in it. In Oh. xviii. 4 the corrupt form (missing hebrew text) (missing hebrew text) appears, which was erroneously derived in M. Ḳ. 5b from "baka," since it was the scene of wailing and lamentation over the dead. Tosef., Oh. xvii. 1, however, has the better reading (missing hebrew text) , with the correct interpretation: "A kokim field is one in which the earth has been dug up and cavities excavated at the sides." Such niches were known to all ancient Semitic races; the Nabatæans called them "goḥ," and the Palmyrenes "gamchin" (Krauss, "Lehnwörter," ii. 282; I. Löw, ib.). The pious will rise from the dead by means of these niches (Targ. Song 8:5), which in other passages are described as cavities ("meḥilot"; Ket. 111a).

Outside of Palestine the custom of interring bodies in galleries was continued in the Catacombs; but among the Jews the single grave became more common, as was also the case in Babylonia, where the soil was sandy. Later information concerning the subject is found in a responsum by Naṭronai, gaon of Sura, who was asked whether the face of a corpse laid in a cavity should remain exposed, or whether it should be covered with earth (Kohut, "Aruch Completum," iv. 210). The Jewish graves in Carthage have the exact measurements of the rabbinical kokim.

Many natural graves have been preserved in Palestine. Van de Velde (l.c. i. 136) saw at the ancient Canaanitish town of Hazor a vault, called "ḳabur," or grave-cellar, which he declared must have a very large subterranean chamber, though the entrance was filled up.

Famous Graves.

Among the famous graves which have been partly preserved, and more or less accurately identified, may be mentioned the tombs of David, John Hyrcanus, Alexander Jannæus, Herod, and most of the tombs of the kings; also the tomb-chambers of Helena of Adiabene, and the tomb of St. James with the very ancient inscription "Bene Ḥezir." All of these graves, which are of the kokim type, are at Jerusalem.

No less renowned are the tombs of the patriarchs at Hebron, Joshua's tomb at Thamna, the tomb of the Maccabees at Modein, and the grave of Archelaus at Bethlehem, while Jewish legends know also numerous other graves of prophets and rabbis in Palestine and Babylonia (see Luncz, "Jerusalem," i. 71 et seq., where about 300 are mentioned), which still receive great honor, even from Mohammedans. That so few tombs have been preserved is due, according to the Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela, to the fact that "the graves of the Jews are situated about three miles from Jerusalem. In ancient times the dead were buried in caves, and each grave was marked with the year of death ["ta'rikh," which, however, can hold good only of the medievalperiod], but the Christians destroyed the graves, and used the stones for building-material" ("J. Q. R." vii. 128). It is clear, therefore, that the same fate was then befalling the Jewish monuments which is still annihilating them, like all other antiquities of the Holy Land.

Protection of Graves.

In ancient times the graves had but one enemy, the ravenous jackal (Pliny, "Hist. Nat." viii. 44), and the tombs were, therefore, closed by means of doors, or by large stones (Mt 27:60, xxviii. 2; Jn 11:38), which in the Talmud is often expressed by the phrase (missing hebrew text) ("he closed the top-stone"; see Kohut, "Aruch Completum," ii. 281; Jastrow, "Dict." p. 222), "golel" being frequently used in combination with "dofeḳ" (Jastrow, l.c. p. 287), which signifies a low estrade of stone enveloping the grave on all sides, and probably used to support the stone cover. In addition to closing the grave with a stone, it was occasionally sealed (Krauss, "Leben Jesu," p. 262, Berlin, 1902).

These stone covers, however, must not be confounded with the tombstones erected on graves in honor of the dead. The Sephardic Jews lay these tombstones flat on the graves; but since these monuments are erected to be seen, the upright position, preferred by the German Jews, is the more normal one. In Biblical Hebrew the tombstones are called (missing hebrew text) (2Kg 23:17; Jer 31:21; Ezek 39:15), while the Rabbis termed them (missing hebrew text) . The gravestone was erected at the expense of the estate of the deceased (Sheḳ. ii. 5), although it was not necessary to set up a monument in memory of the righteous, since their own deeds (their teachings) were a memorial of them (Yer. Sheḳ. 47a; Gen. R. lxxxii.). The mishnaic saying (M. Ḳ. i. 1), "The graves should be marked [ (missing hebrew text) ] at the festival," probably referred originally to the tombstones, since the Talmud itself bases the passage on the Biblical (missing hebrew text) (M. Ḳ. 5a). It is generally regarded, however, as an allusion to the whitening of the graves after the rainy season (Ma'as. Sh. v. 1; B. Ḳ. 69a, where the reason is given "that the bones are white"), which was done to protect against defilement the numerous pilgrims who traversed the roads at the Passover festival (see Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 2, § 3; Mt 23:27). R. Bannaah was especially praised for thus marking caves (tombs), including that of Abraham (B. B. 58a), while Simeon ben Laḳish is likewise said to have marked the burial-place of R. Ḥiyya (B. M. 85b), and to have cast himself in prayer, for the propitiation of the great, on the graves of the pious (ib.), of the Shammaites (Ḥag. 22b), of the justified (ib. 16b), and of the wronged (Yoma 87a). In the Middle Ages Jonah Gerondi wished to offer an apology on the grave of Maimonides (Grätz, "Gesch." 3d ed., vii. 98).


The custom of making pilgrimages to famous tombs, and of praying at the graves of parents and ancestors, is still maintained among all classes of Jews. Even in the Biblical period the belief was current that interment beside a great man might work miracles (2Kg 13:21). See Pilgrimages.

Judicial procedure required two forms of burial, one for criminals who had been beheaded or hanged, and the other for those who had been stoned or burned (Sanh. 46a), while interment among convicts was the utmost disgrace (Yeb. 32b). The tombs of Gentiles were entirely different from those of Jews (ib. 61a). Special caves were used for the interment of the pious ("ḥasidim") and of the members of the Sanhedrin ("dayyanim"; M. Ḳ. 17a), as well as for still-born children ("nefalim"; Ket. 20b). In the ancient cemetery of Prague the Nefel-Platz is still to be seen: different legends are, however, attached to it, and its origin can not, therefore, be determined. Even at the present time all Jewish communities invariably bury suicides in a separate part of the cemetery. Abba Saul was buried at his father's feet (Sem. xii.), thus reviving in a certain measure the use of family tombs.

Every one who beholds a Jewish grave is required to repeat the following prayer: "Blessed be He who begat thee in righteousness, who nurtured thee in righteousness, who letteth thee rest in righteousness, and who will resurrect thee in righteousness. . . . Blessed be He who giveth life to the dead" (Ber. 58b). For other expressions of the religious sentiments of the Jews as displayed in their tombs, see Burial; Burial Society; Cremation; Funeral Rites; Mourning.

Bibliography: Nicolai, De Sepulcris Hebraicis, in Ugolino, Thesaurus, xxxiii.; Winer, B. R. i. 443; Nicoll, in Hastings, Dict. Bible, iv. 454; Stade, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, i. 14-15; Hamburger, R. B. T. i. 476; Kinzler, Die Biblischen Altertümer, p. 345, Calw and Stuttgart, 1884; Rosenmüller, Arch. ii. 2; Benzinger, Arch. pp. 163 et seq.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
This article needs to be merged with Tomb (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Simple English

A tomb is almost the same as a grave. It is a place at which dead people are buried and can be visited. A tomb (from Greek "τύμβος" - tumbos[1]) is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes. The word is used in a broad sense to encompass a number of such types of places of interment or, occasionally, burial, including:

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