Word of the Week (186): KURGAN (probability 14578), by David Sutton

A KURGAN is a prehistoric burial mound; the word comes from the Russian.

There are many other words relating to the marking of gravesites by structures of earth and stone. We are probably all familiar with HOWE, CARN (or CAIRN or KARN) and TUMULUS (plural TUMULI or TUMULUSES); perhaps less so with CIPPUS (plural CIPPI), a small column marking a burial-place or landmark and CISTVAEN (or KISTVAEN), a tomb covered with stone slabs.

BARP is a Scots word for a cairn.

A MASTABA (or MASTABAH) is an Egyptian tomb with rectangular base, sloping sides and a flat roof; the word is from the Arabic and means stone bench. Egyptian tombs may contain a SERDAB, a secret chamber.

A STELA (plural STELAE or STELAI) is an upright stone slab to mark a grave or other feature; this gives adjectives STELAR, STELIC and STELENE. This is from the Greek; also from the Greek is SPEOS (plural SPEOSES), a temple or tomb in the form of a grotto.


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