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Still searching for graves: an analytical strategy for interpreting geophysical data used in the search for “unmarked” graves

Gaffney, C., Harris, C., Pope-Carter, F., Bonsall, J., Fry, R. and Parkyn, A. (2015) Still searching for graves: an analytical strategy for interpreting geophysical data used in the search for “unmarked” graves. Near Surface Geophysics, 13 (6). pp. 557-569. ISSN 1569-4445

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3997/1873-0604.2015029

Abstract/Summary

Searching for and mapping the physical extent of unmarked graves using geophysical techniques has proven difficult in many cases. The success of individual geophysical techniques for detecting graves depends on a site-by-site basis. Significantly, detection of graves often results from measured contrasts that are linked to the background soils rather than the type of archaeological feature associated with the grave. It is evident that investigation of buried remains should be considered within a 3D space as the variation in burial environment can be extremely varied through the grave. Within this paper, we demonstrate the need for a multi-method survey strategy to investigate unmarked graves, as applied at a “planned” but unmarked pauper’s cemetery. The outcome from this case study provides new insights into the strategy that is required at such sites. Perhaps the most significant conclusion is that unmarked graves are best understood in terms of characterization rather than identification. In this paper, we argue for a methodological approach that, while following the current trends to use multiple techniques, is fundamentally dependent on a structured approach to the analysis of the data. The ramifications of this case study illustrate the necessity of an integrated strategy to provide a more holistic understanding of unmarked graves that may help aid in management of these unseen but important aspects of our heritage. It is concluded that the search for graves is still a current debate and one that will be solved by methodological rather than technique-based arguments.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Scientific Archaeology
Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:57972
Publisher:European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers

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