Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Determining geophysical responses from burials in graveyards and cemeteries

Dick, Henry C.; Pringle, Jamie K.; Wisniewski, Kristopher D.; Goodwin, Jon; van der Putten, Robert; Evans, Gethin T.; Francis, James D.; Cassella, John P.; Hansen, Jamie D.


Henry C. Dick

Kristopher D. Wisniewski

Jon Goodwin

Robert van der Putten

Gethin T. Evans

James D. Francis

John P. Cassella

Jamie D. Hansen


Graveyards and cemeteries around the world are being increasingly designated as full. There is a growing requirement to identify burial spaces or to exhume and then re-inter burials if necessary. Near-surface geophysical methods offer a potentially non-invasive target detection solution; however there has been lack of research to identify optimal detection methods using such geophysical techniques. This study has collected multi-frequency (225 MHz – 900 MHz) ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity and magnetic susceptibility surface data over known burial sites with different burial ages and UK church graveyards. Results indicate that progressively older burials are more difficult to detect but successful grave detection is complicated by soil type. Different geophysical techniques were optimal in the three sites surveyed, which therefore suggests a multi-technique approach should be utilised by survey practitioners. Graveyard geophysical targets included the grave soil present above earth-cut graves, the grave contents themselves, brick lining (if present) and grave soil leachate plumes that are all geophysically detectable from background levels. Grave markers were also identified as not always being located where the burials were positioned. This study clearly demonstrates the value of these techniques in grave detection and inform search teams detecting clandestine burials.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 26, 2017
Online Publication Date Oct 27, 2017
Publication Date 2017-11
Publicly Available Date May 26, 2023
Journal Geophysics
Print ISSN 0016-8033
Electronic ISSN 1942-2156
Publisher Society of Exploration Geophysicists
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 82
Issue 6
Pages B245 - B255 (11)
Keywords case history, electrical resistivity, GPR, magnetic susceptibility,
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations