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How are we remembered? How long will ceremonies in our memory be done? Will our survivors erect visible monuments over our lives?

Image may contain: Grave, Headstone, Cemetery, Yard, Grass.

During the Viking age, burial mounds of chieftains were visible signs of who held high esteem in society. Until the health act of 1805 ruled that everyone had to be buried in churchyards, wealthy citizens paid large sums to be buried in high status areas under church floors.

Older cemeteries may be seen as bearers of history. During the 18th and 19th century, it was common that families buried their dead in local churchyards where it was possible to follow genealogy over several generations. In the towns, where there was a lack of space, families often ordered graves in "double depth and double width" in order to make sure that their relations could be buried together. Greater mobility and changes in family patterns during the last fifty years have led to each generation appropriating graves independently of previous generations.

How long are buried people allowed to "rest in peace"? According to the burial laws, a grave's "free period" is 20 years. After this time, a cemetery can request a rental fee for the use of the space. A permanent memorial in a cemetery is therefore dependent upon later generations.

Moving and taking graves away is not a new phenomenon. Gravestones have throughout history been used as building materials. During repairs of a building in Oslo in 2000, a gravestone was found in the foundation. The stone was probably from the last half of the 16th century, and comes either from nearby Christ Churchyard or the churchyard at Old Aker Church. The stone is decorated with skull and crossbones as a reminder of the transient nature of life. Historians believe that the stone was used as building material also before it was used as part of the present building from 1870.

When photographic media became available during the 1830's, they were immediately taken in use for making permanent representations of the dead. There were often no pictures taken of people while they were alive. Photographs could act as solace, or as a way to share the reality of death with others. The pictures could be exhibited in the home, and people who weren't able to attend the funeral could be sent copies. Already from its beginnings, therefore, was photography a way of helping people to live with death, and remember their close ones.

In Islam are all people equal in death, and many believe therefore that no gravestone is necessary in order the enhance the importance of the life of the deceased. God doesn't need a gravestone in order to find the dead person, either. In an Islamic cemetery in Norway will therefore many of the graves be unmarked.

Published Mar. 24, 2020 12:03 PM - Last modified Dec. 14, 2020 9:01 AM