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A burial vault is a concrete box that is placed into the grave before the casket. It is used to protect the casket and to prevent the ground from sinking due to the decaying of the casket.
It has become common for most cemeteries to require the use of a vault. This keeps the grounds from becoming uneven and difficult to walk on. It also helps the headstones to stay upright and makes maintenance of the grounds easier.
Natural burial grounds do not require the use of a vault.