Following the recent digital mapping project of memorials and gravestones in the churchyard of St Mary's Olveston, plans are in place for a
geophysical survey of the old graveyard. Volunteers from A Forgotten Landscape (AFL), a local, Lottery-funded, project, will
be bringing sensitive technology to examine what lies under the ground remotely, without actually having to dig holes!
The church has identified a number of locations in the original cemetery where there are no records of a burial and no evident remains of a grave. These may offer opportunities for more interments in this busy graveyard. As part of the assessment of suitable plots for future burials, the church has asked AFL for advice on whether geophysical techniques can help.
The AFL archaeology team will be coming to the churchyard to perform an earth resistance survey. This will take one or two days. A group of 4 or 5 volunteers will be laying out tapes to form a measurement grid on the ground. Then they will be walking the resistance meter up and down to criss-cross the area. The technique does not move any earth and measurements are focused on the soil surface. This method is widely used on sensitive, and highly protected, archaeological environments. Indeed the team has recently completed a major survey at the Toot in Oldbury-on-Severn, a nationally recognised Scheduled Monument further north in the Severn valley.
Measurements in churchyards are notoriously difficult and whether the results will be good enough to help identify empty graves is not clear but the results could be really useful. So don't be alarmed if you find the team at work in the graveyard!