Consulting the past


controlled at the state or local level, and often associated with public involvement, cemeteries can be an important issue in land development.  Depending on the laws involved cemeteries may be moved.  Often it is easier and less expensive to leave the cemetery in place and work around it as green space.

     The delineation and mapping of cemeteries has become more important in the last few years as more cemeteries have been destroyed and public awareness has
increased.  Graveyards, identified by headstones or found through documentary research or oral history, can be delineated with archaeological techniques in order to avoid disturbing graves.  Above ground indications rarely define the full limit of old cemeteries and it is common to find graves outside of fences that enclose the standing headstones.

         For churches, private cemeteries, or municipal cemeteries, there may be issues of accidental disturbance due to “lost” graves.  It is possible, through various methods including remote sensing and excavation, to map grave yards.  It is easy enough to map above ground indications (markers) but it is also possible to map unmarked graves or determine areas within a cemetery that are vacant and available for future burials.

       Ground cover, soil conditions, and client attitude affect the methods selected for these types of studies.  Excavation is the most reliable means available but when earthmoving is not appropriate, as in a church yard, remote sensing may be considered.  Ground penetrating radar is a common tool.  If requested, Edward Otter, Inc. can map above and below grave indications providing a comprehensive picture of what space is available for burials.  Various software packages are available for cemetery management once the detailed mapping is accomplished.

            At times it becomes necessary to move a cemetery.  Edward Otter, Inc. is experienced in removing historic and prehistoric burials and is intimately aware of the special aspects that are involved.  Accidental discoveries often need a rapid response in order to keep the larger project on track.  For an article on our latest cemetery removal visit capegazette.villagesoup.