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Environmental Geophysics - Survey, Research and Consultancy
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Cemetery Mapping

Victorian graveyard

The UK has a growing legacy of full burial grounds, some with historically or architecturally significant graves or memorials. Wear and tear, natural decay and changes in use mean that condition surveys, mapping of burials and relocation of underground structures like vaults are becoming common and more necessary. Many graveyards in the UK have had memorials removed or misplaced and the original grave locatins have been lost but with appropriate detailed mapping and geophysical techniques some reconstruction of layout can be possible.

Monuments and burials - mapping and condition surveys

We can produce detailed accurate plans for cemeteries to include all monuments and topographic features, directly supporting management plans for both active and closed burial grounds. A geographical information system is used to capture burial details such as names and dates for each monument as well as construction and condition.

Old and inaccurate burial plan
A pretty plan of the graves in a parish cemetery, found through radar survey to be wildly inaccurate, with vaults and graves in different locations than measured with radar

Photographic recording and condition surveys are also undertaken, whether to guide subsequent conservation work or to identify monuments or burial structures at risk of damage or worth highlighting in cemetery guides.

Photograph of memorial
Part of a condition record of a former burial ground containing a number of locally significant burials

Work in cemeteries is undertaken with the utmost discretion and respect for the living and the dead and we can accommodate flexible mobilisations.

Geophysical survey for graves and vaults

A full suite of non-invasive methods are available for mapping the underground structure of burial grounds. Radar or electrical resistance surveys are regularly undertaken to locate former vaults or intact (e.g. sealed metal) coffins, both of which can impact upon re-use or landscaping activities. In general, detection of individual burials is limited to those associated with coffins but in old burial grounds a significant number may lack these.

Radar survey looking for graves
Radar survey underway searching for unmarked graves and to assess soil depth in advance of new graves

However, it is possible to determine the depth of gravesoil across a cemetery as a proxy instead of attempting to map discrete graves, e.g. by using electrical resistivity tomography to build cross sections. This may be the most reliable method of detection of mass graves associated with past epidemics or disasters.

Modelled electrical resistivity distribution
Modelled electrical resistivity distribution across a medieval cemetery, highlighting regions of deeper burials and post-medieval re-use. The scale is 4m square.

Within churches and chapels radar is normally the best method for detection of underfloor structure including vaults.

2D / 3D electrical resistivity tomography, electromagnetics, ground penetrating radar, terrestial LiDAR, GNSS and total station topographic survey

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