Archaeology Graduate Student Pace Recognized with Outstanding Research Award

Posted on 4/3/2013 10:57:50 AM

Meghan Pace, a graduate student in the M.A. in Applied Archaeology program, received an Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award during the 19th annual Awards Luncheon on April 1, 2013, as part of IUP Research Appreciation Week.

Pace’s research project, “How Many Graves are in Memorial Park? Using Geophysical and Historic Data to Search for ‘Lost Graves’” is the subject of her M.A. thesis. Although she was not able to attend the luncheon, her thesis advisor, Beverly Chiarulli of the Anthropology Department, accepted a certificate and $100 check in her behalf.

Meghan Pace at the Transportation Research Board
Meghan Pace presenting her research at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting, January 2013

Memorial Park in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, was founded as a Lutheran Cemetery and used from 1814 to 1875. Meghan found that although historic records indicate that the cemetery contains at least 33 graves based on visible grave markers, there may be many more. The goal of her research was to determine how many graves are in the cemetery through an intensive search of the historic records in Indiana, Pennsylvania, combined with geophysical surveys. The use of both historical and geophysical data should demonstrate the existence of graves in the surveyed area of the park that were believed to have been relocated in the 19th century, or empty grave shafts, remnants of their past occupants. Historic research will examine 19th-century newspaper archives for death notices that mention burial locations, genealogies from local informants, and other public records. Geophysical surveys were be conducted with a Geoscan FM256 Fluxgate Gradiometer to test contrasting levels of magnetized features relative to the earth’s magnetic fields. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) surveys will be performed using the GSSI SIR-3000 model and the MALA X3M. It is often believed that GPR is the most reliable method for surveying historic cemeteries, although its success is highly dependent upon site conditions (Jones 2008). This research will provide a scholarly and systematic approach combining geophysical and historical data to identify the locations of “lost” graves and identify the cemetery’s remaining inhabitants.

Pace’s study focused on Memorial Park, the first Lutheran cemetery in Indiana, and the implications of magnetometry and ground penetrating radar surveys. It has been determined that both GPR and magnetometry can produce invaluable results when searching for lost and unmarked historic graves. The most reliable instrument of the three that were used was determined to be the GSSI ground penetrating radar. This conclusion was reached by the analyses of the multiple surveys and the verification from ground truthing. Given that four graves and/or headstones were identified from the excavation, all three instruments produced positive interpretations for identifying buried features.

The research objectives of this study were to determine areas where subsurface cultural features may be present and to explore the level of socioeconomic status of those interred in the cemetery. Using GPR and magnetometry at Memorial Park has addressed the proposed research question regarding their effectiveness and has also paved the way for future archaeological investigations at the site to locate more lost historic graves.

The results of the cumulative ground truthing phase of this study do suggest that those buried in Memorial Park could be of higher status. Historical research of previously standing headstones has alone suggested and supported the possibility of status-related burials. Some of those buried within the park include Dr. Jonathan French and his wife, June. French was the first doctor in the county and has been represented as being a man “of fine culture and a very successful physician” (Caldwell 1976; Wiley 1981). Other prominent early figures include Daniel Stanard, Esq. and his wife, Mary McAnulty Stanard. Revolutionary War veteran Peter Sutton is another prominent figure purported to be buried in the park. Sutton’s great-grandson, Thomas, became one of Indiana’s most successful businessman, banker, and lawyer. Furthermore, the child’s iron coffin for test unit 4 suggests that the family must have been quite wealthy to bury their child in such an expensive coffin. Cast iron coffins cost between $50 and $100 in the 19th century, while a simple pine coffin could be had for $2. According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator, $2 in 1850 would be worth $58 today; $50 in 1850 would be worth $1,470 today; and $100 in 1850 would be worth $2,941 by today’s standards.

One advantage of conducting research at Memorial Park is there are no current plans to further develop or disturb the site. This can allow the planning of follow-up research sessions to identify more unmarked graves and return the identities of those who have been lost and forgotten. If possible, further GPR surveys should be conducted with the GSSI system, and excavation should be utilized to verify the results. If excavation is not a viable option, further GPR exploration and other geophysical techniques, such as magnetometry, would assist in locating lost graves.

Developments with GPR and magnetometry modeling and processing can only benefit the field of archaeology. This study has specifically demonstrated the usefulness of geophysical survey when searching for historic graves at Memorial Park, and it is suggested that these techniques be implemented at other historic cemeteries to continue the efficiency and effectiveness of geophysical prospection.