October 13, 2018 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)
We’ve discussed this particular gravestone carver before, during The 2015 October-ganza, I couldn’t pass up a chance, however, to point out to anyone who missed it last time the presence of gravestone art depicting mermaids (which were dubbed “Dagon stones” by at least one 20th century taphologist) in New England.
HERE LYETH BURIED
Ye BODY OF CAPT
AGED ABOUT 52 YEARS
DECD AUGUST Ye 6
This stone can be found at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in Boston’s North End (just ask for the old West Mansion if you’re lost). FindAGrave offers a little more information on Capt. Greenough himself.
As for the gravestone carver, he has been dubbed “JN” by scholars because he signed his work with those initials. He was almost certainly a Boston silversmith named John Noyes – most of the stone he carved were connected to his social/professional circle, the same mermaid figure show up in Noyes’ surviving silver, etc. If you want to read more on JN, this article (which IDs him as a silversmith named John Noyes) here’s the article.
Mermaids and/or tritons of course were figures common in Greco-Roman mythology and, especially when depicted with an urn, which was a standard Roman symbol of death and grieving, can reasonably be read as Classical mythology imbued with Christian symbolism. In this case the triton figure is a stand-in for Christ, who himself was a dualist figure (both man and God) with lots of piscine iconography.