Humans Through Time and Space > Environment and Society

Dr Ian Moffat

The reliable detection of unmarked graves is one of the most important challenges faced by community groups, industry and law enforcement agencies. Burials are ubiquitous in the archaeological and forensic record however these features are challenging to locate with conventional surface survey and excavation. Geophysical methods are an outstanding solution to this issue due to their non-invasive nature and rapid site coverage.  Dr Ian Moffat has developed significant expertise in this area working in collaboration with many community and Indigenous groups, law enforcement agencies, local councils and History Flight.  He has undertaken surveys to map unmarked graves at many locations including Innamincka, Port Elliot, Encounter Bay, Meadows, Upper Sturt, the Coorong, Tharwa, Lake Condah, Brighton, Walkerville, Albany, Kensington, Charters Towers, Bremer Bay, Townsville, Nantawarrina, the Burrup Peninsula, Mapoon and Betio Island in the Republic of Kiribati.  This broad research project is aimed at trialing new geophysical and geomatic methods for locating unmarked graves and improving conventional approaches to data processing and interpretation.

Significant Funding:
The Geophysical Response of Historic Burials in Varying Geological Environments, South Australia, Sir Mark Mitchell Foundation Research Grant, $8,500

Related Publications:
Moffat. I. 2015, Locating Graves with Geophysics, in Sarris, A., (ed) Best Practices of GeoInformatic Technologies for the Mapping of Archaeolandscapes, Archaeopress, Oxford, 45-53.

Marshallsay, J., Moffat, I. and Beale, A., 2012, Geophysical Investigations of the Tabernacle (Yilke) Cemetery, Encounter Bay, South Australia, Journal of the Anthropological Society of South Australia, 35: 91-103.

Bladon, P., Moffat, I., Guilfoyle, D., Beale, A. and Milani, J., 2011, Mapping Anthropogenic Fill with GPR for Unmarked Grave Detection: A Case Study from an Alleged Location of Mokare's Grave, Albany, Western Australia, Exploration Geophysics, 42(4): 249-257.

Moffat, I., Wallis, L.A., Hounslow, M., Niland, K., Domett, K. and Trevorrow, G., 2010, Geophysical prospection for Late Holocene burials in coastal environments: Possibilities and problems from a pilot study in South Australia, Geoarchaeology: An International Journal, 25:(5): 645-665.

Wallis, L.A., Moffat, I., Trevorrow, G. and Massey, T., 2008, Locating places for repatriated burial: A case study from Ngarrindjeri ruwe, South Australia, Antiquity, 82: 750-760.

Moffat, I., Wallis, L.A., Beale, A. and Kynuna, D., 2008, Applications of geophysical techniques for the detection and identification of open Indigenous sites in Australia: A case study from inland northwest Queensland, Australian Archaeology, 66:60-64.