Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens

Burial Ground Mapping in New Perlican: Total Stations & Gravestones

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If you’ve been a reader for more than a minute, you might already know that some of my PhD research is taking place in the outport community of New Perlican. Well, I’m currently working on my second comps paper, and that means it’s time to write another blog post to let some of that writing energy go somewhere, now that I’ve met my page goal for the day!

Today I wanted to share the maps that were made for my project by my colleague Bryn, who is a mapper extraordinary and taught myself and Ian how to use the total station theodolite (TST or total station) ((which is something I need to remember finally, rather than re-learning every time I need to use one)). The benefit of using the total station to record the gravestones is that not only are they geo-referenced within cm’s accuracy, but it allowed us to create accurate maps of the gravestones for the community to have on record in their archives.

Bloody Point grave marker 1, BP1 (Lacy 2021). This is an excellent example of a rough fieldstone.

Besides recording the location of obvious gravestones, it was important to record the location of fieldstones. Fieldstones, like Bloody Point marker 1, pictured above, are grave markers that are commonly seen in settler community burial grounds in Newfoundland that are made from locally sourced stone and roughly shaped. The majority of the time, they do not have inscriptions or iconography, and are shaped into a curve or square to mimic more traditional gravestones’ silhouettes. These rough stones have been consistently used from at least the early 18th century through to the mid-20th century in some communities, by people who did not have access to professionally carved gravestones from artisans, for economic reasons, remoteness, or a mixture of both. In the 18th century, it was common to see gravestones imported from the British Isles and carved from limestone, but obviously these would have been expensive and reserved for only the more well-office families and individuals. For example, Bloody Point burial ground only have one limestone marker from the early 19th century, but 24 fieldstones, providing excellent insight into what was available and widely used at the time.

Fieldstones are often overlooked in contemporary studies of burial sites, as they are small, uninscribed, and sometimes literally overlooked because they are quickly buried in the grass. While having the benefit of being small and light enough to not seem to sink too quickly into the ground, they are often pulled out of the ground in modern efforts to clean up historic sites in the province, as many people do not realize that these small stones are also grave markers, removing them in order to cut the lawn. One of my goals with mapping these sites in their entirety, gravestones and fieldstones alike, was to record the quantity and location of these small markers for their protection in the future. This is especially important for communities that might be undertaking developments adjacent to a historic burial ground. By understanding that the small stones were placed with love and care to make a grave, we can ensure they stay in situ.

Below are the maps created from the 2021 field surveys conducted by my team of three! I’m so happy with what we were able to accomplish in a short week, during a very busy, weird, covid-y summer. If you have any questions about the mapping or my ongoing project, please don’t hesitate to reach out! And please remember that these sites, as with any burial places, are protected spaces within a community, and permission is always needed before carrying out any type of work.

Map showing the location of grave markers at two sites, New Perlican (map made by Bryn Tapper 2021),
Detailed map of 306 grave markers recorded at St. Mark’s Anglican Cemetery Municipal Heritage Site, New Perlican (map made by Bryn Tapper 2021). This site is mostly comprised of fieldstones with around 20+ inscribed stones.
Detailed map of Bloody Point burial site (map made by Bryn Tapper 2021). This map shows the 2019 GPR grids in grey.
Landscape map of Bloody Point burial site (map made by Bryn Tapper 2021). This map shows the grave markers, as well as surrounding human alterations to the landscape, including gardens, root cellar depressions, a potential house terrace, and field clearance cairns or boundary walls.
Overview of the Jane Condon’s Grave municipal heritage site (map made by Bryn Tapper 2021). This site consists of three markers: two fieldstones and one upright limestone headstone with previous repairs. We also surveyed the Pinsent’s Lane burial site, but I am not including that map as it is only an overview of the landscape with a dot, due to the small size of the burial site.

As always, thank you for reading and following my research!

Author: Robyn S. Lacy

Archaeologist / Cultural Heritage / Burial Ground Restoration

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