Geophysical remote sensing of historical Aboriginal gravesites in southwestern Western Australia

L.J. Gavin, T. Hoskin, Ben Witten, J. Deeks, Rie Kamei, Jelena Markov, Jeffrey Shragge

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Many suspected historical Aboriginal gravesites are throughout southwestern Western Australia, where individual burial locations remain unknown. Because of the cultural and historical importance of these heritage sites, there is an increasing effort to identify such locations to enable better site preservation and appropriate commemoration. Gravesite reconnaissance routinely requires the investigation of large areas, and it is inefficient and disrespectful to excavate large volumes in search of burials. Geophysical remote sensing offers a noninvasive alternative for identifying and delineating gravesites. To these ends, the University of Western Australia (UWA) Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Student Chapter has been working with the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) in a pilot study to acquire several near-surface geophysical surveys at two historically documented Aboriginal gravesites in Quairading and Toodyay, Western Australia. The resulting ground-penetrating radar (GPR), magnetics, conductivity mapping, and resistivity profiling data sets identify subsurface anomalies that are consistent in location with historical documentation and elders' recollections and with the expected geophysical signatures of historical burials and early development activities. The geophysical survey results have been relayed to the SWALSC and community decision makers to assist in upcoming preservation and commemoration efforts. The pilot study could be helpful in identifying other Aboriginal gravesites throughout Western Australia and would represent a positive step toward resolving key longstanding issues among different community interests surrounding the uncertainties of some sites of suspected Aboriginal heritage.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1348-1354
    JournalLeading Edge
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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