The tumulus is a mound form of burial that dates back to prehistoric peoples 4,ooo to 5,ooo years B.C.  Examples can be found throughout Europe, Asia, and North America.  There are many examples in the United States from Maine to Georgia and as far west as the Dakotas and Kansas.  These artificial mountains or conicals, first built in North America in what is now Wisconsin, have been carbon dated to about 1200-1500 B.C.  The tumuli are dome-shaped hills used for ritual burials. Other examples, such as Effigy Mounds in Eastern Iowa, were built some 3,000 years ago for the same purpose of creating an imposing memorial to the dead.

Today, tumuli as a burial form, can be found in mostly large cemeteries.  This example is found in the Sinking Spring Cemetery at Abingdon, Virginia.

The cemetery brochure describes it this way, “This unusual ivy-covered mound encloses a stone tomb. Inside, behind a locked steel door, are the caskets of John Henry Martin, a wealthy carpenter and farmer who died in 1899, and his wife, Malinda. An illustrious person who was buried here, but just temporarily, was General John Morgan Hunt, a Confederate raider who was renowned for burning down trestles and generally bedeviling the Union forces. He was killed in Greenville, Tennessee, in September of 1864. The Confederates arranged for a truce and brought his body on a special train to Abingdon, where he had served as field director for the Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee campaign.  Morgan’s funeral was the largest one in Abingdon had ever seen. General George Crittenden led the3 procession along the three-mile lone rout from Judge Campbell’s home, Acklin, where Morgan had his office, to the Episcopal Church for the service, and then to the cemetery, where his body was laid in the Martin tomb.

After just a few days, Morgan’s body was taken by train to Richmond, where it lay in state until burial in the Hollywood Cemetery. In 1868, his body was exhumed and reburied in Lexington, Kentucky. Some say he traveled further after he died than he did while alive.”

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1 Response to Tumuli

  1. Very interesting – never heard of this form of burial before. Thanks.

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