TO many, the carvings on gravestones are little more than decoration, but for Tracey Olivieri and Christopher Dawson they are a dying language.
The pair have written a book about the carvings on headstones in the Ipswich Cemetery. Their book, In Heavenly Garb, details the many different symbols and designs in the cemetery.
The book was funded by the Ipswich City Council's Viva Cribb Bursary, which was awarded to the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society.
Mr Dawson said the symbols told the city's history.
After a similar study of a South Brisbane cemetery, Mr Dawson said he was surprised by the unique symbols they found in Ipswich.
"When we started this we thought there'd be a fair amount of crossover," he said. "There was a certain amount, but we were really surprised by the new symbols we saw here.
"You can walk around this place 100 times and on the hundredth time you'll find something new."
Mr Dawson said the cemetery had a distinctly multicultural flavour, with significant Welsh areas and a "pagan" area where non-Christians were buried.
The symbols include religious crosses, ropes to bind the interned to their home countries, and horseshoes for an avid racing fan.
Mr Dawson said the carvings were a language few people understood.
"I've found that most people really don't notice the symbols much and I know this from experience," he said.
"I used to live next to a graveyard and I walked through there quite a lot, and I'd read the names and the dates, the words and the numbers.
"I never paid too much attention to the symbolism on the outside of graves. They seemed quite nice, but just fancy stuff to make it all look nice.
"I started to look at it one day and I went home and sat down and researched it, and I was really surprised by the amount of historical meaning these symbols have."
For more information about In Heavenly Garb or to buy the book, visit the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society website at boggoroadgaol.com.au.