A necropolis (plural necropolises, necropoles, necropoleis, necropoli
) is a large, designed cemetery
with elaborate tomb
monuments. The name stems from the Ancient Greek
''nekropolis'', literally meaning "city of the dead".
The term usually implies a separate burial site at a distance from a city, as opposed to tombs within cities, which were common in various places and periods of history. They are different from grave field
s, which did not have structures or markers above the ground. While the word is most commonly used for ancient sites, the name was revived in the early 19th century and applied to planned city cemeteries, such as the Glasgow Necropolis
Necropoleis in the ancient world
The Giza Necropolis
of ancient Egypt
is one of the oldest and probably the most well-known necropolis in the world since the Great Pyramid of Giza
was included in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
. Aside from the pyramids
, which were reserved for the burial of Pharaoh
s, the Egyptian necropoleis included mastaba
s, a typical royal tomb of the early Dynastic period.
took the concept of a "city of the dead" quite literally. The typical tomb at the Banditaccia necropolis at Cerveteri
consists of a tumulus
which covers one or more rock-cut
subterranean tombs. These tombs had multiple chambers and were elaborately decorated like contemporary houses. The arrangement of the tumuli in a grid of streets gave it an appearance similar to the cities of the living.
The art historian Nigel Spivey
considers the name ''cemetery'' inadequate and argues that only the term ''necropolis'' can do justice to these sophisticated burial sites.
Etruscan necropoleis were usually located on hills or slopes of hills.
In the Mycenean Greek
period predating ancient Greece
, burials could be performed inside the city. In Mycenae
, for example, the royal tombs were located in a precinct within the city walls. This changed during the ancient Greek period when necropoleis usually lined the roads outside a city. There existed some degree of variation within the ancient Greek world however. Sparta
was notable for continuing the practice of burial within the city.
is an ancient necropolis located about northwest of Persepolis
, in Fars
. The oldest relief at Naqsh-i Rustam dates to . Though it is severely damaged, it depicts a faint image of a man with unusual headgear
and is thought to be Elamite in origin. The depiction is part of a larger image, most of which was removed at the command of Bahram II
. Four tombs belonging to Achaemenid kings are carved out of the rock face at a considerable height above the ground. The tombs are known locally as the "Persian crosses", after the shape of the facade
s of the tombs. Later, Sassanian
kings added a series of rock relief
s below the tombs.
Necropoleis have been built in modern times. The world's largest remaining operating necropolis from the Victorian era
, for example, is Rookwood Necropolis
, in New South Wales, Australia.
*List of necropoleis