What does a Gravedigger do?

Malcolm Tatum

Gravediggers are individuals who are assigned the task of digging and preparing graves before a burial takes place. In times past, gravediggers often used nothing more than shovels and hard labor to prepare a grave. Today, a gravedigger may use traditional means or rely on the use of equipment to make sure the grave is prepared in compliance with local standards and regulations.

A gravedigger will be responsible for preparing the grave sites in a cemetery.
A gravedigger will be responsible for preparing the grave sites in a cemetery.

In centuries past, a gravedigger labored before and after a burial took place. Along with digging the grave, the cemetery worker was often charged with the task of filling the grave once the deceased had been laid to rest. In Western cultures where Christianity was the dominant faith, an individual had to be a member of the local church in order to be a gravedigger. The reason for this is that many Christian denominations once taught that the gravesite was to be dedicated and sanctified in preparation for the bodily resurrection of the individual at the end of time. Since the site would be defiled if someone who was not Christian filled in the grave, only a member of the faith could do the job.

A grave should be dug before the casket arrives.
A grave should be dug before the casket arrives.

Today, gravedigger jobs often make use of heavy equipment to move earth rather than relying on shovels. This is because most modern graves make use of a concrete vault that is sunk into the grave prior to the interment of the deceased. The use of more precise equipment makes it possible for the gravedigger to make sure the grave is the ideal depth, width, and length to accommodate the vault. Since modern graves also tend to use a top slab to seal the grave, a gravedigger’s job rarely involves shoveling dirt in order to fill the grave after the burial is complete.

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For the most part, a gravedigger will attempt to be very discreet in the performance of his or her duties. This means making sure the grave is prepared before any mourners reach the grave site, as well as waiting until the loved ones of the deceased have left the burial site before beginning the process of sealing the open grave. This discretion is often considered to be respect for the deceased and for the loved ones who are grieving their recent loss.

Gravedigger jobs normally do not require any particular type of educational background or special training. After securing employment, the new hire is usually paired with a seasoned gravedigger that teaches the basics to the novice. If heavy equipment is used, the novice is sometimes trained and must receive certification before being considered fully prepared for the task.

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Discussion Comments

anon180128

i was disgusted when my family attended a funeral and there were two diggers fairly close with the drivers chatting and laughing. they were like vultures waiting to pounce.

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