• Date: 17/07/2013
  • Cemetery: Werribee Cemetery

Results from a Ground Penetrating Radar survey undertaken at Werribee Cemetery have been able to shed new light on Wyndham's rich heritage stored below layers of subsurface soil.

In undertaking the research last year local cemetery authority the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (GMCT) hoped that the use of radar technology would assist the cemetery authority in creating a more complete 'map' of Werribee Cemetery and unearth a lost chapter in the history of the local Wyndham community.

The research arose after initial discussions with Wyndham City Council suggested an investigation of the area was needed to determine if the area had previously been used for burials following loss of valuable historic documents held by the cemetery in the 1950s which detailed plot allocations between the years 1864 and 1909.

GMCT spokesman, Scott Samson said initial analysis of grid samples taken in July last year by the scientific research team at GBG Australia Pty Ltd have provided a rich vein of data for the GMCT to explore.

"Last year we used ground penetrating radar to search for coffin-shaped disturbances approximately 900 mm below the soil surface in one of the oldest and most significant sections of the cemetery" Mr Samson said.

"Results analysed by GBG Australia and the GMCT have revealed multiple subsurface anomalies that suggest numerous disturbances that may have been the result of previous, unrecorded interments within the cemetery grounds or, as has been discovered in similar situations at cemeteries across Australia, agricultural and domestic archaeological artifacts from early local settlement in the Wyndham region.

"In the intervening twelve months, we have been carefully studying copies of the original handwritten Minutes Books that had been kept by the old cemetery trust, now located at Wyndham City Library, for any clue as to what might be the cause of the subsurface soil disturbances and events occurring within the cemetery grounds during the lost years.

"Conducting research into potentially lost burial plots is painstaking work and, as the responsible cemetery authority, we have to be very sure about any discoveries," Mr Samson said.

The GMCT hopes to integrate these historical discoveries into plans for future burial spaces for the local community.