In most architecture projects, the input of the end user of the space is an important consideration; but what if those users are no longer living? Memorial architecture for the dead is a uniquely emotional type of design and often reveals much about a certain culture or group of people. Especially in the case of ancient tombs, archaeologists can learn about past societies’ customs and beliefs by examining their burial spaces. The personal nature of funerary spaces and monuments conveys a sense of importance and gravity to viewers and visitors, even centuries after the memorials were created.
The list of 3D models that follow, supplied by our friends at Sketchfab, explores memorial spaces and artifacts that span both space and time, representing a variety of cultures and civilizations.
The Angel of Grief, Italy
Now a term used broadly for statues modeled in its likeness, the original Angel of Grief statue was designed by American sculptor, William Wetmore Story. The Angel, created in 1894, resides in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome above Story and his wife. Multiple gravestones throughout the world have since been fashioned in the image of Story’s Angel, or have used her as inspiration, to memorialize passed loved ones.
Bibi Maryam Mausoleum, Oman
The ancient city of Qalhat, Oman, is in the process of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the 14th-century Bibi Maryam Mausoleum as its crowning jewel. Overlooking the sea, the mausoleum is similar in form to other monuments of its type located throughout Iran and Central Asia built during the 12th – 14th centuries. Then-ruler Bahauddin Ayez built the mausoleum in honor of his wife, Bibi Maryam, during a period of Persian cultural influence over the city. The building’s square plan, harmonious proportions, and the squinches that supported the former dome are directly descended from a centuries-long process of mathematical exploration and experimentation in Persian architecture.
Cuween Hill Chambered Tomb, Scotland
Dating from around 3,000 BCE, the Cuween Hill Tomb is carved into the sandstone bedrock of a hill in Orkney, Scotland. After crawling through the entrance tunnel, visitors can stand in the main chamber, which is now 8 feet 6 inches (2.6 meters) tall after restorations carried out in the 20th century. Side chambers branch off from the main chamber in four directions, each with corbelled stone roofs. The mound surrounding the tomb is 55 feet (16.7 meters) in diameter, but its original shape was altered by the reconstruction following the chambers’ excavation.
Fethiye Tomb, Turkey
Also known as the Tomb of Amyntas, the Fethiye Tomb was built in 350 BCE by the Lycians, the people who inhabited the Aegean region of Turkey at the time. The tomb is carved into the base of a mountain and is considered the largest and most famous of this type of Lycian tomb. Carved in the shape of an Ionic temple, the Fethiye Tomb is an example of the most elaborate style of tomb created by the Lycians, though the temple-style tomb is not specifically Lycian in nature.
Captain’s Wife Tombstone, Poland
A smaller example of a memorial, this tombstone is a wonderful work of typography and cast-concrete. Created in 1920 for a captain’s wife named Gertruda Ziegenrűcker, the tombstone lies in the third-largest cemetery in Europe, located in Szczecin, Poland.
Dorn Pyramid, USA
A 25-foot (7.6-meter) tall granite pyramid, located far from Egypt in San Luis Obispo, California, stands to commemorate the lives of a mother and son. Erected by the husband and father, Fred Adolphus Dorn, in 1905, the pyramid attracts its fair share of mystery and curiosity due to its Masonic symbolism and inscriptions. The granite was cut and assembled by hand and was too heavy to be supported by the soft soil in the existing Odd Fellows Cemetery; instead, in order to place the monument, a new section of the cemetery had to be opened over an area with a rock outcropping capable of supporting the structure.
Poulnabrone Dolmen, Ireland
One of approximately 174 “portal tombs” in Ireland, Poulnabrone Dolmen is located in the Burren in County Clare. The tomb is from the Neolithic period, likely between 4200 and 2900 BCE, and after an excavation in 1985 was found to be the resting place of 33 people. The dolmen, as a portal tomb, consists of a 12-foot (3.7-meter) long capstone supported 6 feet (1.8 meters) off the ground by two sets of upright parallel portal stones, creating a chamber.
Urn Tomb, Petra, Jordan
Located high on the mountainside in the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, the Urn Tomb is one of a series of tombs carved into the sandstone mountains. Likely created over 2000 years ago, when Petra was the capital of the Nabataeans, the Urn Tomb is thought to be the tomb of Nabataean King Malchus II, who died in the year 70 CE. Along the side of the front courtyard runs a row of columns, also carved from the stone, perpendicular to the main façade of the tomb. Far above the door to the main chamber are the three burial chambers. Inside, the main chamber is large and contains three asps and an inscription left as relics from when the tomb was used as a church in 447 CE.