Eroded grave inscriptions #general

A. E. Jordan

Asher Arbit writes "If the stone cannot be read because it is worn, faded
or eroded, there is no good solution."

A few people have already offered some ideas. A few more thoughts
I found >from when I was working with stones:

First off try taking digital pictures >from multiple angles, i.e.
left, right, center, above, below and don't be afraid to do close ups
just of the area of the inscription or even sections of the inscription.
Be mindful of the light when you do it so that the sun is behind you or
above not behind the stone and also watch for shadows on the stone.
The lighting needs to be consistent on the stone, i.e. shade or direct
sun not half and half.

Then you can manipulate the photos on any good computer program
(MacPaint has been mentioned or PhotoShop for example). These are
difficult to use programs but some of the basics are adjusting the
brightness and contrast on the photos. If you do not have these
programs on your personal computer you can often find them at a
public library or a print shop or office services store (where you
can rent computer time).

If you find the stone is overgrown some times you can carefully
remove things like ivy and it is actually good for the stone if
you can gently remove it because ivy actually cracks stones with time.
It helps to bring good garden gloves and even a clipper on a
cemetery visit. If you have the luxury of visiting the cemetery
more than once you can even cut the ivy at its roots and come back
later when it has died off/dried and it is sometimes easier to brush
it away. Also a small plastic brush like what you use to clean dishes
can be helpful to brush away dirt, soil, etc. that is on the stone.

If you find a stone that has a bush or such blocking it I have had
good luck with taking close up pictures behind the bush and then you
can use the montage capability with some of the digital photo programs
to reassemble the inscription on your computer. If you go with someone
to the cemetery they might hold back some of the branches on the bush
so you can get your camera in the opening to take pictures.

Allan Jordan

Harvey Kabaker

A sure-fire way to enhance all but completely eroded inscriptions, and
entirely harmless:

Equipment: A firm but flexible rubber squeegee, preferably at least 8
inches long, a can of plain, foamy shaving cream (without any extra
ingredients, and not the gel version), and some old towels.

1. Apply a small bit of foam into your open hand to get a sense of how
fast it comes out.
2. Apply foam across and down the face of the stone. Don't try to cover
3. Use the squeegee gently to spread foam into all the letters.
4. Firmly and gently squeegee the stone to clear the face but to leave
foam in the letters. Use a towel to clear the squeegee. Don't rub the stone.
5. Make a photo.

Remaining foam will wash away in the next rain. If you try to clear it
with a cloth, you may leave a streaked or blotched surface.

I can provide sample photos.

Harvey Kabaker
Silver Spring, MD

Researching CUTLER, KOTLARSKY, SHAEFFER in Bila Tserkva;

Bob Roudman

Folks have mentioned several ways to pick up information >from a worn stone.
Several considered are incorrect and not allowed in most cemeteries. Both
chalking and rubbing can cause great harm as will shaving cream and flour.
Please see the link below for safe methods and effective methods.

also .

The stones belong to posterity lets not damage them.

Bob Roudman
San Rafael, CA


Shaving cream is acidic and accelerates erosion, especially of softer
stones. I don't think it's a good idea at all.

....... tom klein, toronto

Harvey Kabaker <harvey.kabaker@...> wrote:

A sure-fire way to enhance all but completely eroded inscriptions, and
entirely harmless:

Equipment: A firm but flexible rubber squeegee, preferably at least 8
inches long, a can of plain, foamy shaving cream (without any extra
ingredients, and not the gel version), and some old towels.

Ken Drabinsky <kenjdgen@...>

The discussions I have read giving recommendations for recovery of
eroded inscriptions ring alarm bells why discussion list conversations
like this should be read with caution.

While personal recommendations are often great ideas, they may not
always be the best solutions. In this case, I am not an expert in
recovery methods however it seems to me the best person to know would
be a professional museum curator or archaeologist whose career may
depend on making the right choices especially when working with
priceless documents and artifacts.

My two cents your research....

Best regards,

Ken Drabinsky

Kolo Rypin Plock Area Research Group (KRPARG)
"tracing your Jewish ancestral links in north central Poland"
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Todd Edelman <edelman@...>

I know someone in Lithuania who "reads" Hebrew on gravestones with her
hands.... she will travel elsewhere. Write me if you would like me to
find her.

Todd Edelman (near Los Angeles)

mathov yehuda <mathov@...>

Dear researchers
Shalom >from Israel

Last year I took more than 800 pictures >from 200 hundred graves
in an almost forgotten Jewish Cemetery in Argentina.

Most of the Inscriptions were damaged [ or completely destroyed ]
by intentions of repaint them by people who didn't t know the
Hebrew letters. and then finishing the possibility to learn the
dates[ which are engrave in letters and not numbers ] . or by
those who used other ways.

The best way is: to use aluminum foil or a mirror to "play with
the light." And to have a morning set of pictures and an evening set.

And at last: to use the different computers programs to arrive to
different contrast. That does not harm the tombstone and gives a lot
of possibilities.

A better technical way to take a first class picture was to use
Infra-red films and illumination.but a bit hard to find today.

Kindly Yehuda MATHOV

Daniel Kester

I did a search on the topic of using shaving cream to read
gravestones, and found this:
[or --Mod.]

from the National Center for Preservation Technology and
Training of the U.S. National Parks Service, which seemed like
an authoritative source. When I read it, I realized that they
were responding to an email that I had sent them five years ago!
At the time I was looking for an answer >from someone with a
little more actual knowledge of the topic, rather than just
people repeating what they had heard elsewhere. Anyway, they
also discourage the use of shaving cream.

Daniel Kester
Williamsville, NY USA

Todd Edelman <edelman@...>


I found the contact information and some web links for the guide I
mention who can read Hebrew in tombstones with her hands.

Since this would be a commercial announcement if I posted more here,
please just write me privately if you would like her contact info, etc.

Todd Edelman (near Los Angeles)

Currently & Newly-researching:
GLATTSTEIN in Siroke, Hrabkov, Liptovsky Mikulas and Spisska Nova Ves
and other areas of central-eastern Slovakia
EDELMAN & FRIEDMAN in Bodrogkeresztur, Spisska Podhradie, Tisza-Dob and
KLEIN in Puspokladany, Debrecen and Biharnagybajom
BERNAT in Klarafalva