Field Guide

The Mosaic Decalogue

Thanks to Charleton Heston and Cecil B. DeMille, almost everyone knows these tablets as the Ten Commandments. In the cemetery the two tablets are always joined together. Sometimes they are seen with the Hebrew figures (five on each side) for the numbers 1-10, while other times the commandments are written out in an abbreviated form. Christians liked the idea of the tablets so much that they modified it with roman numerals and it has become a popular Christian symbol. Modern-day tombstones generally depict five numerals on the left and five on the right, but on older tombstones, Roman Catholics and Lutherans tend to like three numerals on the left and seven on the right, while Calvinists and the Greek Church tend to like four numerals on the left and six on the right.

Taken from Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography written and photographed by Douglas Keister, published by Gibbs Smith, Salt Lake City, 2004.