The question is rather straight-forward. I consider a "traditional" tombstone as some sort of monument having an inscribed name and date of birth/death or age.

  • Certainly these were common (for the well-off) in ancient Rome. I don't know how much further back they date.
    – Charles
    Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 4:28
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    It's the date of birth and death that's the clincher here. Ancient monuments/tombstones usually don't have that. Roman tombstones often recorded the age, but not the dates. The practice of recording birth and death on tombstones is certainly not common until the renaissance and possibly even later, but unfortunately I can't find any sources for this. Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 7:10
  • @LanceLafontaine - any limitations such that it must have not been an important personage (e.g. a monarch), or what constitutes a tombstone (do the Pyramids count)?
    – DVK
    Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 11:21
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    @LennartRegebro, An answer considering a monument/tombstone with the age would also be acceptable imo, I've edited the question. DVK, hmmmmm. I wouldn't say the Pyramids would count, as they certainly aren't "traditional", but no limitation on the status of the individual. Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 13:53
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    @LanceLafontaine: It was the tradition for Pharaohs. :-) Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


Ancient Egypt is thought to be the origination of the funeral tombstone, however the original name was Stele/Stela, and in plural stelae, comes from the latin, to stand. Stelae have been documented back to the first dynasty - 2890 B.C., they were used later by many number of other cultures. The highest recorded use is by Attica in Greece, example would be the Greece marble funerary stelae. The Roman uses of stele came from their expansion into Greece, in which they adopted some of the culture.

Funeral Stele - Stele - Brooklyn Museum Heku - Brooklyn Museum Stele

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