The use of emblems or professional tools on gravestones represents the professions of the deceased. The following occupations or trades may be characterized by these gravestone symbols.

Artist: Palette

Builder: Square, pick, trowel



Doctor: The actual symbol for the medical arts is one snake around the staff of Asclepius.

The Caduceus is a symbol of two snakes winding around an often winged staff. It is not a symbol of the medical profession although it is often found on the markers of doctors or others in the health care field.


Engineer: train

Farmer: Coulter (type of hoe), Flail (threshing implement), Swingletree (rod for beating flax), Stalk of corn.

Plough, Scythe or sickle symbolizes cutting life short; death; the final harvest. It is often used as a Memento Mori symbol alluding to Christ’s parable of the wheat field in  the wheat is separated from the chaff. It reminds us to expect death and prepare for it. The scythe is always associated with a male figure such as Father Time. A sheaf of wheat is often found on the graves of the elderly.

Farrier: a trimmer of horse’s hooves


Fireman: Never goes to a fire without his protective helmet.

Merchant: Scales

Minister: Bible

Musician: Can be represented by musical instruments or notes of a song.

Smith: Crown, hammer, anvil. An anvil is also symbolic of martyrdom.

Solicitor: Scales represent justice. This symbol often marks the grave of someone in the legal profession. Sometimes it is found with a statue of Saint Michael, which symbolizes his duty of weighing the souls of the departed.

Teacher: Open book

Writer: Inkwell and quill. Also indicative of a solicitor.

Wright: A worker skilled in the manufacture especially of wooden objects –usually used in combination (shipwright or wheelwright) and , chisel and mallet wood carver.



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