‘In Conversation with’ Prof Jon Prangnell

‘In Conversation with’ Prof Jon Prangnell


In this webinar we spoke with Professor Jon Prangnell, a researcher in Historical Archaeology and Cultural Heritage at the University of Queensland, and a member of the team responsible for the excavation of the North Brisbane Burial Grounds. Jon took us through the history of the site which was in use as a cemetery between 1843 and 1875, and the process they used to identify the remains of a lady who died as a result of a skirt fire in 1863.

Key Takeaways:

  • The North Brisbane Burial Ground was established in 1843 as the first Brisbane cemetery and operated until late 1874 when the Toowong Cemetery was officially opened.
  • The cemetery was abandoned and neglected until 1913 when it was decided to convert the area into parklands. It was later used as a rubbish dump and then a running track before being converted to Lang Park Stadium in the 1950s.
  • A large excavator was used to remove the garbage on top of the cemetery, in one section the garbage was 12 metres deep.
  • The grave shafts were easily identified due to the sedimentary changes which were evident once the top layer of rubbish was removed.
  • The excavation of the site revealed 591 graves, of which 397 were excavated. Only one person has been identified through the forensic analysis of a piece of fabric and extensive research.
  • Three steps were taken to identify the remains of one person:
    • Analysis of Grave Context
    • Textile Analysis
    • Family History Research
  • The research undertaken highlighted a common cause of death for women of that era, the dress fire. During this period, 18 women and children from Brisbane and surrounding areas, died due to dress fires, the skirt acting like a chimney when ignited.


Professor Jon Prangnell has published numerous articles from his work on the North Brisbane Burial Grounds excavation. You can find them on ResearchGate

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