King's Chapel, Boston 1680.
This is the oldest gravestone that we've ever encountered that included a Death's head in the carvings. This is not so unusual if you consider that before the middle to late 1670's there was no decorative carving on New England gravestones. Instead all that was on the thick slabs of stone were names and dates. A carving from 1680 is just about as old as it gets in New England and the depictions of Death are particularly stark and very grim. Really the message here is more complex than many from the same time - it included Latin text. The presence of the Latin text here may be a symbol that, as a member of the military this man was a higher ranking member of society. Most gravestones had only the grim images, I.E. simple messages, with little accompanying text - partially because so few could read, but mostly because Puritan authorities rarely passed up an opportunity to pass along a symbolic message from the dead to the living - to use this hallowed space to reinforce some critically important information about the struggle of life and the inevitable victory of Death. If it sounds grim it's because it is. The Latin inscription means 'remember you are mortal.'
Shortsleeve shirt pictured at the moment - sorry about that - we'll get that updated shortly!