~Plymouth's Oldest Cemetery~

Entrance to Burial Hill, Plymouth's Oldest Cemetery Burial Hill is the oldest cemetery in Plymouth dating back to colonial times. Before it became a cemetery, it was the site of the first fort, meeting house, and place of worship.

On the tour you will walk through Burial Hill and view the oldest tombstone, visit the site of the 1st fort, find out the real reason why people bought family vaults in the 1800's, and visit many more interesting gravesites.

You will also see many different engravings on tombstones and learn what they really mean.

The engravings that you commonly see on older tombstones have a lot of symbolic meaning to them. From the large pictures to the tiny detail, almost every mark on a gravestone represents something significant to the deceased.

The most common of the engravings is the skull or "dead head". The skull is most commonly seen with wings or sometimes with crossbones. During the 16, 17, and 1800's People wanted to be able to get to heaven when the die, so they would engrave skulls or cherubs (angels) with wings to enable them to fly to heaven after death. The different images engraved on the tombstones are called effigies.

As you may not know, tombstones differ in things other than engravings. There are also different shapes of tombstones. The first and most commonly seen tombstone is the single timpanam, which has a single arch on the top of the stone. The second type of tombstone is called a double timpanam which of course has two arches at the top of the stone. The double timpanam is not as frequently seen as the single, and that is mainly because of price. Back in the 16 and 1700's Plymouth residents bought their slate from England which was very expensive, so to have a double timpanam tombstone would be a very costly proceedure.

common tombstone epitaph
Older tombstones were made of one of three different types of stone. That is blue slate, brimstome and purple slate. The most common is the blue slate which the bluish-gray tombstones are made of. This was the most common in the 16 and 1700's because it was the cheaper than purple slate but stronger than brimstone. Brimstone tombstones are very easy to distinguish because they are bleach white. This type of stone is not as commonly seen as the blue slate. The purple slate tombstones are the ones that you see the least of the three. They have a sort of purple-red coloration. All three types of tombstones you will see on our tours and we will explain more in depth what the epitaphs mean, who the people are and their exciting stories.

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