cemetery, name used by early Christians to designate a place for burying the dead. First applied in Christian burials in the Roman catacombs, the word cemetery came into general usage in the 15th cent. Group burials have been found in Paleolithic caves, and fields of prehistoric grave mounds, or Barrows, are located throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. In the ancient Middle East, graves were often grouped around temples and sanctuaries. In Greece the dead were buried outside the city walls along the roads leading into the city in a necropolis (city of the dead). Christian belief in resurrection made chapel crypts and churchyards desirable for burial, but overcrowding and the rise of urban centers made it necessary to establish cemetery plots outside the city limits. Graveyards of all periods tend to reflect the familial and class groupings of their living society. Among the many beautiful and historic cemeteries of Europe are the Père-Lachaise in Paris and the Campo Santo in Pisa. A noteworthy U.S. cemetery is the Arlington National Cemetery. The National Park Service also maintains cemeteries (see National Parks and Monuments, table). See funeral customs; grave; tomb.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.