A graveyard or cemetery is a site where the remains of deceased people are buried or otherwise interred. The word cemetery (from "sleeping place" in Greek) means that the land was expressly known as a burial ground and was originally applied to the Roman catacombs. The term cemetery is often used interchangeably with graveyard, but a graveyard refers primarily to a burial ground within a churchyard.
People's preserved or cremated bodies may be interred in a grave, usually referred to as a cemetery, or in a crypt, an "above-ground crypt" (like a sarcophagus), a mausoleum, columbarium, niche, or other structure. The funeral ceremonies are often found in cemeteries in Western cultures. Such rites of passage or rituals vary according to cultural traditions and religious beliefs. Modern cemeteries also have crematoria, and some historically used grounds for both continue as a key use as crematoria long after the interment areas have been filled. A number of different cemetery types are in use today. Many cemeteries have different style-based areas which reflect the diversity of cultural practices around death and how it changes over time.
The urban cemetery is a burial ground situated within a village, city, or town. Early urban cemeteries were churchyards which quickly filled up and displayed a haphazard placement of burial markers as sextons attempted to cram new burials into the remaining space. Since new burial grounds were built to compensate in urban areas, burial plots were often laid out in a grid to replace the churchyard's chaotic appearance. In the course of time, urban cemeteries evolved into a more landscaped form as part of the civic growth of values and institutions trying to present the city as civilized and harmonious.
A monumental cemetery is the traditional cemetery style where headstones or other monuments made of marble, granite or similar materials rise vertically above the ground (typically about 50 cm high, though some may be more than 2 metres). The entire grave is often covered by a slab, usually stone, but it can be more costly materials such as marble or granite, and/or has its borders delimited by a fence that can be constructed of stone, cast iron or timber. Where a number of family members are buried together (either vertically or horizontally) a number of graves may be hidden by the slab or boundaries. Monumental cemeteries are also considered unsightly because of the random array of monuments and headstones found within.
The rural cemetery or garden cemetery is a burial ground design using landscaping in a park-like setting. It was conceived in 1711 by the British architect Sir Christopher Wren, who promoted the development of landscaped burial grounds featuring well-walkways that offered direct access to tombs and planted trees, bushes and flowers plantations.
Lawn cemeteries consist of a variety of sepulchres in a lawn setting with perimeter trees and gardens. This style was developed in Cincinnati in 1855, by Adolph Strauch. Although the primary reason for the introduction of lawn cemeteries was aesthetic appeal to family members, cemetery authorities initially enthusiastically accepted this new type of cemetery, anticipating easier maintenance.
A recent invention, the lawn beam cemetery aims to solve the problems of the lawn cemetery while maintaining many of its benefits. Small concrete slabs (beams) raised (10–15 cm) are placed over the cemetery. Commemorative plaques (usually uniform in terms of size and similar materials to lawn cemeteries) are adjacent to each grave on these posts.
A natural cemetery, an eco-cemetery, a green cemetery or a cemetery for conservation, is a modern cemetery type as an area set aside for natural burials (with or without coffins). Natural burials are inspired by a desire to be environmentally aware with the body quickly decomposing and becoming part of the natural environment without the expense of conventional burials to the community. Certifications for various rates of green burial can be given.
In the new millennium, providing online services has become increasingly popular among cemeteries and funeral homes. Online "cemeteries" like Find a Grave, Canadian Headstones, Interment.net, Mobile AL Funeral Homes, and the World Wide Cemetery, are also stand-alone.