'In Conversation with' Prof Jon Prangnell

Identifying a Burns Victim at the North Brisbane Burial Grounds 150 years After Death

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: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jonathan-Prangnell

As part of our ‘In Conversation with’ series of webinars we have recently spoken to Robert Pitt, CEO of Adelaide Cemeteries Authority, about their Tourism Award Winning cemetery tours which balance cultural sensitivities with educational experiences.


And Shannah Kennedy, as we know the core of the death care sector is about caring for the needs of others. Shannah provides some practical and insightful tips and reasons to prioritise and practice self-care in your own life.

Transcript

Lea-Ann McNeill

Good morning, everybody. Well, we just got a little recording message, sorry about that. So good morning everybody, and welcome to the latest in the OpusXenta in Conversation with series. Today is a little bit different and will probably be less conversation, a lot more of a presentation here today from Jon. So I will introduce Jon to you before I go through to many more of the housekeeping elements just because you'll be able to see his face on the screen.

Lea-Ann McNeill

So it's good to know who you're talking to. So I guess I've known Jon for a long time now, and many of you will have read his bio. But Jon comes to us from the University of Queensland. He's an archaeologist, obviously, and a researcher right now, probably ongoing student as he would even say, I believe. But I've worked with Jon Prangnell quite extensively now over the last few years while I was managing Brisbane City Council and their cemeteries and some of the archaeological type work that he did for us in that capacity.

Lea-Ann McNeill

So Jon is coming to us today to talk about the identification of a burns victim and, well, what was Brisbane's original cemetery? So before I hand over to Jon to share his screen and take it away, just a few other little housekeeping elements, the presentation is being recorded. As I've said, we'll be able to make that available after this session today. If you have questions for Jon we'll be taking those questions after the presentation. But you can send them through at any time using the Q and A button at the bottom of your screen.

Lea-Ann McNeill

If you've got any system type issues, please feel free to send those through in the chat at the bottom of the screen and we will try and help you resolve those as best we can. So that probably is it. So, Jon, I'll invite you now to share your screen. We'll make sure we've got that happening and then we'll take it away.

Jon Prangnell

Great. Thanks, Lea-Ann McNeill. All right. Go for it. Everyone can see my screen. Excellent. Yes. So thank you. I'm Jon Prangnell from the University of Queensland. And I want to talk to you today about some work that came from the redevelopment of the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Suncorp Stadium was located over the original Cemeteries of free settlement Brisbane. Brisbane had been a convict colony until 1839, and then in nineteen forty-two, it was open for free settlement and the first cemeteries of that free settlement, Brisbane, were located underneath what is now Suncorp Stadium, where the Broncos play, where the Roar play, where the State of Origin is usually held.

Jon Prangnell

You can see how close it is to Brisbane City, this is taken from Wade’s 1842 plan of Brisbane, and you can see that the cemeteries, which were known as the North Brisbane burial ground, were located approximately a mile from the centre of town and it occupied a large area with separate denominational burying grounds, so there was an Anglican one known as the Episcopalian cemetery, a Presbyterian one, a Roman Catholic one, a Jewish one, and further up the hill was the other nonconformists like the Baptists and the Methodists.

Jon Prangnell

And the Congregationalists. So this is a plan, this is a photo taken from sort of Red Hill looking down towards the cemetery, if you know Brisbane at all this is the Brisbane River, Mount Gravatt is in the background. The cemetery operated from 1842 until 1875 when it was closed and Toowong Cemetery officially opened. This is the Episcopalian cemetery here burial ground. This is the Presbyterians. This is the Roman Catholics, the Jewish are under these trees here and these are the other nonconformists, this building over on the hill here was the Petrie Terrace Gaol. The Cemetery closed in eighteen seventy five, and then it basically was abandoned, there was very little maintenance done of the place and it became neglected and overgrown and by the end of the first decade of the 20th century, it was quite an eyesore and the Red Hill Council, the Ithaca town council at the time applied to the state government to have the area cleared and turned into Parkland and the state government agreed.

Jon Prangnell

And so the area was cleared and it became this parkland. This didn't last very long, by 1920, the parkland had turned into the major rubbish dump of Brisbane. So we're now dumping our rubbish on top of the original cemeteries. And then in nineteen forty, it became a running track. The Queensland Amateur Athletics Association got a lease over the rubbish dump and as is typical with Brisbane, we build a sporting facility on top of an old rubbish dump, that trend still continues.

Jon Prangnell

Then in the 1950s, it became Lang Park, the rugby league field, and this is what it looked like before the redevelopment of the start of this century. And I wrote the Cultural Heritage Management Plan for that redevelopment and then was responsible for implementing it. So, this rugby league field is on top of a garbage dump, which is on top of the original cemeteries. So this is the cemeteries as they were in two thousand, so you can see the original, the playing field is here.

Jon Prangnell

They've got the Suncorp Metway stand over here, the Mc Auliffe stand over here and then bleachers around the sides, but they overlap the Anglican cemetery, the Presbyterian cemetery and the Roman Catholic cemetery. Look, I forgot to mention the Aboriginal cemetery in within the bounds of the Anglican cemetery, there was an Aboriginal cemetery. This was not a traditional cemetery. This was a cemetery built by white fellas to bury black fellas, mostly from the Petrie Terrace Gaol. And this is where we excavated in the crosshatch areas we only excavated where the piers, and the platforms for the redevelopment would actually go down to the cemetery levels, so you can see that we didn't actually excavate much of the site at all. This is taking off all that overburden, taking off the 20th century garbage to get down to it, most people think of archaeology as being done with little tools, little toothbrushes and pics and things. I like twenty-two ton excavators. That's my preferred to archaeological tool. And there was a lot of garbage to get out of the way in some places in the Roman Catholic cemetery we had over 12 metres of garbage on top of the cemetery levels.

Jon Prangnell

But when we got all that garbage out of the way, we could actually find all the graves that remained there. You can find grave shafts by the change in sediment that occurs when a coffin is buried in the ground, so you dig a hole. You pile all the dirt up over there, you take off the topsoil and the subsoil and the clay and you'll pile it up all over there, you put the coffin in, you put it all back in, but it doesn't go back in the same order it all gets mixed up and that mixed up sediment stays like that forever. So you can clearly see here where the grave shafts were, this is in the Anglican burying ground. So we identified in the area that we covered, which was 11 per cent of this entire site we covered, we identified five hundred and ninety one graves and we ended up removing three hundred and ninety seven of them. And this is kind of what they look like, this is a burial in the Anglican cemetery, you can see that they're not in very good condition.

Jon Prangnell

This is, in fact, one of the better ones. This is what a lot of them looked like. That is, that scale in there is twenty five centimetres long and a centimetre in diameter and you can see that it is the widest thing in that photograph, all the bones have been completely compressed by the weight of the sediment above them, because not only have they got the sediment in the grave shaft, they've also then got all the way from the landfill and garbage that went in above them. So you can see here is the skull up here, a humerus over here, we’ve got some ribs, some vertebra. So it's all in pretty much the right position. It's all just been completely compressed. And then we get a lot of graves that didn't, that had very little bone in them at all. So you can see a tiny bit of leg bone here and then you can see what archaeologists call body goo. This is a mixture of adipocere from the breakdown of the of the body and mixing with the sediments.

Jon Prangnell

Now, in one of these graves, we found a piece of textile. And when we started to investigate this textile, it led us on a journey. And it led us on a journey that ended up with us being able to identify the person that had been buried in that grave. There were no burial registers for the site. When the site was cleared in 1913 there had been a big search for the burial registers at that time, and nobody could find them and nobody has found them since, I suspect that they were lost in the 1893 flood. So we were not able to identify any of the occupants of any of the graves. But this piece of textile actually led us on a journey that resulted in identifying one of the people. So this is not that piece of textile, this is a different piece of textile, but this is an indication of what they look like, the scale at the bottom there is one centimetre, the black bead is one centimetre long.

Jon Prangnell

And this is kind of the size and condition of textiles that we got, the vast majority were less than three and a half centimetres square. This is our textile. You can see that it's black. Which is quite unusual. So that was what led us, that's the start of trying to work out what this textile was and what it meant. It came from a grave in the Roman Catholic cemetery. That particular grave there. This is excavating in the Roman Catholic cemetery, and you can see clearly where we've marked on the ground, where the grave shafts are in the white part.

Jon Prangnell

This is the grave itself, F98. We gave each grave a number and we started out by analysing the context of the burial itself. Then the textile, by doing a visual description of it, looking at it under a light microscope, under a scanning electron microscope, by bombarding it with X-rays in the microscope, in the scanning electron microscope, and then doing some family history research, so I'm going to take you through each of those steps.

Jon Prangnell

So let's look at the grave context, grave F98 in the Roman Catholic cemetery. The skeletal presentation was only fair. You can see you can see a few bones in there, but for the most part, the bones had deteriorated significantly. The coffin wood was in, it was in good condition, as was the metal that saw the coffin handles and the footplate and the coffin nails. Textile preservation was poor, but we did get this one piece of textile, the soil was slightly acidic, and this is from the abundant halite rock that underlies the entire cemetery.

Jon Prangnell

And the textile sample came from inside the coffin, so it wasn't a wrapping around the outside of the coffin and there was no indications of burning or fire in the sediment. And that becomes important later in the story. So we looked at the dimensions of the coffin, because the skeletal preservation was so poor across the cemetery, we couldn't do the standard, morphometric analysis that we would normally do. And so we have to look at basically adults versus children, by looking at coffin length and width, and you can see here that we've graphed coffin length along the x axis, coffin width along the Y axis, and we've ended up with a bimodal distribution of children and adults with some overlap in the middle of two children or small adults and our coffin sits very squarely in the adult section. So we have an adult Roman Catholic. So, that's our coffin grave context. Now let's look at the context of the textile, and we looked at this by looking at its preservation, its colour, its size, the type of fibres and their diameter and how they were spun and how they were weaved and woven, how they were woven, and were able to identify the actual textile. So this is what the textile looked like, just a reminder, this is what it looks like at five hundred times under light microscopy and we can see the very diagnostic twist in the cotton fibre. So these are little bits of grain or sediment, mineral that has attached to it, but this twist in the fibre is very characteristic of cotton, so we know that we have a cotton textile.

Jon Prangnell

Uh. Then we looked at the warp and the weft of the weave, the warp are the vertical threads and the weft are the horizontal threads, and we had a thread count in the warp of 40 per centimetre and each thread was between one hundred and one hundred and twenty microns. The weft was, each thread was twice as thick as in the warp and there were more of them, so they were more tightly packed in the weft than in the warp.

Jon Prangnell

It was a Zed spin, so when you spin my mum's been a spinner, for I don't know, 60 odd years and I've been alive that long, so I actually know a fair bit about spinning. And so things can be spun in a Z or in an S direction. So their opposite, the two opposite directions of spinning and all these fibres respond in a Z and given the Z spin on the warp and the weft and the tight packing of the weft, it's consistent with machine spinning.

Jon Prangnell

So this is a machine spun product. What you can see in the warp and the weft here is that there are, that the warp goes with a single warp thread, then a double, then a single, then a double. And the weft are all singles. But the single goes over one under two over one under two, under one over two under one over two, and that pattern repeats continuously. That gives us what I call warp-way ribbing on the textile itself. And this specific type of weave is what's known as haircord weave. And in the 19th century was used specifically in women as a women's dress fabric or in children's clothing. Now, these days in the 21st century, it's most commonly found in carpets, it's a type of carpet weave. We know that haircord was available in Brisbane from the earliest days of the colony. So this is an advertisement from the Morton Bay Courier in nineteen forty nine, the store keeper, John Harris, is advertising the materials he's just received off a ship that's come in. And we can see here five cases of textiles in the new colour, prints and patterns. He's got Mull, he’s got Jaconet, he's got haircord, he's got Muslin, he's got Lawn, he's got all these women's dress fabrics. So. We know that it's a haircord weave. We know that that's a women's dress fabric. Now, let's look at this thing, at the actual characteristics of the textile.

Jon Prangnell

It is rigid, it's not flexible at all, it doesn't bend at all. It's dark, greenish, black, and it's opaque to transmitted light. They take those three things together, there's only three ways that that could have happened to cotton to a cotton textile. It could be a textile pseudomorph, which I'll explain a little in a sec. It could be contaminated from heavy metals, from the garbage dump that was on top of the barrels, or it could be burned.

Jon Prangnell

Now, textile pseudomorph is when the organic content of the cellular, the organic cellular material of the textile has been replaced by a metallic element, this is another textile from the North Brisbane burial grounds, and this one is a pseudomorph. So when we bombarded this in the electron microscope with X-rays it breaks off bits of the metallic element and you can then tell what has, in fact, invaded the textile and in this case, you can see this massive spike here, Pb, it's lead.

Jon Prangnell

So we've actually had the cellular material in this textile replaced with Lead. But for our textile to do this process, you have to you have to coat your textile in platinum. And when we bombarded our textile in the ELIX scanning electron microscope with the x rays, the only metal we detected was platinum, so there was no platinum in the North Brisbane burial grounds so what we detected was the coating that we’d covered it in. So there is pseudomorph.

Jon Prangnell

There is no metal contamination, otherwise we would have detected it in the EDS. Which means that we have a burnt textile. So the next question we asked was, is the charred textile related to the coffin or to the body? Because, as you know, coffins have a fair bit of textile inside the coffin lining in the 19th century, shoddy was used to pack the coffin lining. But the weave type, the haircord weave type was not at all consistent with any other coffin linings we found across the entire cemetery.

Jon Prangnell

So they were the coffin linings were predominantly a twill weave or a flannel. Which is a union fabric, it's made from both cotton and a wool, and it's a completely different weave pattern. The only other type of coffin lining we found was cheesecloth. And cheesecloth is a plain weave made from cotton, but is quite, quite, quite different, distinctly different. So this is the profile that we have so far. We’ve, from the Roman Catholic cemetery, it's a female adult.

Jon Prangnell

It's burnt, it's from inside the coffin, and it relates to the body rather than the lining of the coffin. So at this point, we actually thought. Wow, maybe we can identify who this person is. So then we go, OK, how did a piece of burnt textile end up inside the coffin? So we investigated whether it could be some kind of remnant of cremation, which seemed unlikely, but we looked into it, we looked at the idea of maybe the landfill had caught fire.

Jon Prangnell

We looked at the idea of a fire at an undertaker's premises or the person actually dying by fire and the dress fabric attaching to the skin. So we were able to rule out cremation because cremation did not occur in Brisbane until the early 1930s, I think nineteen thirty two was the first cremation. We were able to rule out land fire, landfill fire because there was no evidence of burning on or around the coffin when we excavated it. And I've been doing this job for decades and I can tell when sediments have been burned.

Jon Prangnell

So I can absolutely guarantee that was no burnt sediments. Then we looked at fires at undertaker’s premises, just in case something had happened, like there'd been a fire and some stuff had caught fire and maybe they just thrown some stuff into the coffin before they nailed it shut. There was only one fire in undertaker’s premises in Brisbane in that in between 1842 and 1875. And that occurred in 1866. Joshua Ebenston’s undertaking business in Queen Street and bales of coconut fire, coconut fibre had ignited and smouldered some time in an outbuilding, and this is not coconut fibre.

Jon Prangnell

This fire at Joshua's premises was actually one of a series that had occurred over a month or so in Queen Street. There was an arsonist who eventually got caught and convicted who was setting fire to businesses in Queen Street in October 1866. So that left us with the idea that someone had died in a fire. So we looked at all property fire inquests in Brisbane in that period between 1842 and 1875 and there had been twenty five people had died in building fires in that time, but none of them had been women.

Jon Prangnell

So then we thought, OK, maybe they died in some other kind of fire, so we pulled all coronial inquest records that were publicly available in Queensland state archives, the State Library and the Mitchell Library in Sydney. There were one hundred and sorry, there were seventeen hundred and ninety one inquests conducted in that period, we eliminated all the inquests related to men and we eliminated all the inquests of women in country areas and that left us with one hundred and six women that had died and required an inquest. 18 women, of those hundred and six, 18 women died in fires in Brisbane in that time period. And they all died in dress fires. And a dress fire is when the dress catches fire, it’s what it says it is. So you're wearing, women are wearing big expansive skirts at this point often with crinoline underneath, so are metal hoops and textiles are glued to these hoops and the textiles and the glue are highly flammable.

Jon Prangnell

There's lots of sources of ignition around the home, open fireplaces, candles, kerosene, and oil lamps. And as you can imagine, when one of these skirts catches fire, it acts like a chimney. It is shaped like a chimney and the fire just goes straight up. The English women's domestic magazine of 1867 reported that three thousand women a year burned to death in England. So to only have 18 burned to death in Brisbane over this period was probably a bit of a miracle.

Jon Prangnell

A number of these deaths are reported in newspapers and he has a couple of examples. We have Mrs Leslie, the wife of a miner on Caledonian Hill, which was a mining site at Gympie just north of the Sunshine Coast, her dress caught fire on Sunday week while cooking at a fire in the open air and has died from the injuries then received. So that suggests that it took at least a week for her to die. The other ones from the Morton Bay Courier, which says it's a heart-rending task to record the death of a fine little girl named Caroline Gericke, she climbed onto upon a table where a light, a candle was placed and took it into the bedroom. Addressed, accidentally caught fire, enveloped her in a sheet of flame. So these are 18 females that died in dress fires between eighteen forty two and eighteen seventy five. So there's Caroline Gericke, the young girl at the top of the page. This is an index of the coroner's inquest reports, and if we look at number seven there. Which I'll zoom in on, it's Eliza Jane Maddick died in Brisbane, accidental death then there’s a slash saying burned. So Eliza Jane Maddick died in a fire. she'd arrived in Brisbane in 1848 aboard the ARTEMISIA it departed Plymouth, and so she was 12 years old when she died. So that was our next step, was to rule out all the children. So you can say Caroline's ruled out, Eliza’s ruled out, as are the other children, so that left us with 12 burns victims, that this that could be in this grave.

Jon Prangnell

So, investigating them further, people like Elizabeth, Cowell and Sarah Hunter, they died in a single fire event in January 1864, but they’re both buried in the Anglican cemetery. In this case, Sarah was refilling kerosene lamps, noticed something boiling over on the fire, turned around to deal with that, spilt the kerosene in the fire her dress went up. Her mistress, Elizabeth, ran in to try and deal with it, her dress caught fire and they both died.

Jon Prangnell

That's a newspaper account of that shocking and fatal accident. They were both buried in the Anglican cemetery, in the Episcopalian cemetery, but in 1913, some monuments were removed and moved to other cemeteries. And here we can see that Elizabeth’s was removed and was removed to the South Brisbane cemetery and her monument is still there. Elizabeth Cowell who departed this life January 1864, aged 38 years. And another one, a Mary Curran known as Susan. Died in 1866, she was a domestic servant, she got burnt cooking at an open fire in a Bush camp. It was, in fact, a railway construction camp. She lasted for 11 years, 11 days, sorry after she got burned, she was taken to Ipswich Hospital. But she died of dysentery in the hospital. And the coroner blamed the husband for her death, saying that she probably would have survived if it hadn't taken a week and a half to get her medical help. But we can see here from her death certificate that she's buried in the Church of England cemetery.

Jon Prangnell

The next one, Margaret Lane, buried in the Presbyterian burial ground. So what we did was we ruled out everybody who wasn't a Catholic. And that left us with two people, Elizabeth Godesly and Eliza Coffey. And we knew that Eliza Coffey was Catholic, but we didn't know what religion Elizabeth Godesly was. I could I was having real trouble finding records on Elizabeth Godesly. And then I found them. I eventually found them, I eventually found it in the coroner's register, her name had been misspelled.

Jon Prangnell

And once I’d discovered the misspelling of her name, I was able to track it down and find her in the Anglican cemetery. So she's the top one here, Elizabeth Gadesty. So that left us with Eliza Coffey. She was Irish. She was 18 years old. She was burned on the 15th of November, eighteen sixty three died two days later, and her entire dress had burned. This is her death certificate, so she died about three miles from South Brisbane on the Ipswich Road.

Jon Prangnell

So I figure that somewhere around Annerley, she was a domestic servant. Eighteen years old. She was accidentally burnt, took two days to die. And she's buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery in Brisbane. So what do we know about Eliza Coffey other than she died? This is a newspaper account name of a young girl named Eliza Coffey died on Wednesday last from the effects of burns received through the crinoline catching fire. We know that she had arrived in the colony just not long before she died. She had travelled from Ireland to Liverpool and then had caught the boat the Rajasthan from Liverpool to Brisbane. But that's kind of where my tracking of Eliza ends, because there are three Elizas, Eliza Coffeys baptised in Ireland at around the same time, there’s one in Tipperary, one in Offaly and one in Meath, and I don't know which one she is. So I haven't been able to track Eliza back any further than her actual leaving Ireland and coming to Australia.

Jon Prangnell

But. What this means is that we have actually identified one of the sets of remains from the North Brisbane burial ground through a combination of scientific research and family history research. And it basically blew my mind that we were able to do that, we were actually able to give a name to one of these people and it's exposed a story that I don't think many people know about, exposed the story of women dying in dress fires, which must have been horrendous.

Jon Prangnell

And I don't think anybody would even think of that. But anyway, that's my story. I welcome any questions or comments back to you, Lea-Ann.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Firstly, that was fascinating, and I was sitting here thinking, I don't know if it's the former police officer in me that finds it so interesting, but it does go to show you just how much, I guess, archaeological work is a case of investigation.

Jon Prangnell

Yeah, well, that's right. A lot of it is sort of detective work, I guess

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah, very much so. And I know that we…No you go.

Jon Prangnell

I was going to say I didn't actually expect this. We removed, we exhumed three hundred and ninety seven sets of remains and we've done a lot of work on basically why they're in such poor condition. And it was in that doing that sort of scientific work on working out why these taxonomic changes that occurred to the remains that we started to investigate these changes to the textiles and then that started this whole sort of chain and train of thought that occurred. And it was amazing that we ended up where we did.

Lea-Ann McNeill

I think the other thing I find fascinating, and I mean I've seen it for myself is it's amazing just how long once you take that that top level of earth away just how visible those grave locations actually are. I think that's a phenomenon that people perhaps just don't appreciate.

Jon Prangnell

Well, I don't think I think they do at all. I've now excavated in something like I think it's seven or eight cemeteries in southeast Queensland for different purposes. And every time it happens, every time. I’ve looked for graves at All Hallows, the girls school in Brisbane, because it used to be a nunnery and the original nuns were buried on the premises and the school thought they were buried where they wanted to put a playground. So they wanted to know where the graves were. And so we took the top off and sure enough, we found the grave shafts. I've done the same thing at…what's the name of the cemetery at Archerfield Aerodrome?

Lea-Ann McNeill

God’s Acre.

Jon Prangnell

Thank you very much. So I didn't a thing there where they didn't want me to take the entire top off because they were concerned about what community would think about removing the entire top of the cemetery. So I did that one by probing, but to demonstrate that the probing actually did the job I removed a small section, I removed a section over four or five graves to demonstrate. So I probed the area so this is where the grave shafts are took the top of that section to demonstrate that that's in fact what I said then I probed the entire cemetery.

Lea-Ann McNeill

So this is sort of a loaded question because in some respects, I know your answers to this, but on the use of ground penetrating radar. I mean, we see that being used. I've seen that used in policing circles as well as in cemeteries, but there are limitations to that.

Jon Prangnell

I'm not a fan of ground penetrating radar because there are too many false negatives and too many false positives. I see this all the time. We did that work in Mount Gravatt Cemetery not so long ago where we knew that there had been some burials further down down the slope and a portion was making its way down this slope and the administrators wanted to know whether they could bury in this lower section. And so they did ground penetrating radar, which identified a series of I guess anomalies that were identified as graves, but to ground truth that they got me in to actually take the top off different sections. And what we found was that a number of the areas that had been positively identified as having graves were, in fact, tree roots that had disturbed settlements. And then when I took the surface of another section, we found grave shafts that had not been identified in the ground penetrating radar. And quite a lot of them, actually, it was quite substantial number and two rows of them, two rows of them coming down the hill.

Jon Prangnell

So yeah, I'm not I'm not a fan of all of it. For me, it's cheaper and more definite if you just take the surface off and you generally, my experience is you don't have to take much surface off. You really just need to take the grass and the topsoil off and once you get to the clay layer, then it's obvious where the growth stops. And when you know where they are, you can put the surface back on.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Yeah. And that perhaps leads me because I am conscious of time, particularly for you because I do know that you're racing off to go and do another talk a bit later. But I suppose for me that's probably a good piece of information to impart to our audience, because many of us are or have been in charge of cemetery, old cemeteries where sometimes the records are incomplete and we're not sure, we do know there are graves in places and we're just not quite sure. But that there are people around, like yourselves and there are opportunities without creating too much disturbance where those graves can, in fact, be located.

Jon Prangnell

Well, I quite like the probing method. So I just use I just use a metal rod and you can tell, you can tell I've tried lots of different archaeological context and you get pretty good at actually, you can tell the layers of the sediment when the sediment layers is changed with the metal to the end of the tip of the probe. And you can detect edges of grave shafts and things like that.

Lea-Ann McNeill

So it's certainly something that's open to people that run cemeteries.

Jon Prangnell

Yeah, well and it's much better than ground penetrating radar. And yet radar works in specific situations. You've got to have the right type of sediments, for instance, and, you know, not damp sediments and things like that. So there are certainly constraints on the effective use of ground penetrating radar. So you could meet in a sandy situation for example.

Lea-Ann McNeill

No, I've got a couple of questions that have gone through. Sorry, somebody just asked, I guess, how long did it take to actually go through that process of identification to identify the site?

Jon Prangnell

Well, we did the excavations 20 years ago, and I didn't start looking at the textiles till about 2010, maybe ten years after the excavation. And then ruling out, ruling it down to Eliza and oh I've forgotten Godesly’s name, Elizabeth, ruling it, getting it down to Eliza and Elizabeth was reasonably quick. So the X-Ray, the x ray in the scanning electron microscope and stuff like that takes no time at all and getting it down so that only took a few months to do all that work.

Jon Prangnell

But then I could not identify I could not find Elizabeth so I could not get it down to a single person. I was stuck on two people for years and years and years. And it was two years ago that I found Elizabeth in the records.

Lea-Ann McNeill

So, the moral of that story is persistence.

Jon Prangnell

Yes, 2019 I found Elizabeth. Yeah.

Lea-Ann McNeill

All right. So just as we start to wrap up, if there aren't any more questions, I have been asked where people would be able to get more information on the sort of work that you do.

Jon Prangnell

Oh, I don't advertise…

Lea-Ann McNeill

Google you?

Jon Prangnell

They can Google me. Google scholar, I guess. Yeah, I've published quite a lot on the North Brisbane burial grounds and the work that we've done, we've published on the actual excavations itself, we've published this paper, this story has been published, we've published on the weight of the sediments, we published on the impact of temperature change in the sediments. We published on the buttons that we found, we published we published on the textiles themselves so that the whole range, I think we found 88 actual textiles across the cemetery. So I've actually published on this. So if you Google me in Google Scholar, you'll probably find all those papers.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Great. Thank you. And we don't have any more…

Jon Prangnell

And sorry, ResearchGate.

Lea-Ann McNeill

ResearchGate Yep. All right well, if we don't have any more questions, it doesn't look like that we do. Again, I guess I'd like to thank Jon for his time tonight. I know that he's a busy man. I have tried to work with him and track him down at different times. So we do thank him for making his time available today.

Lea-Ann McNeill

I'm also a big thank you to all of those that have joined us out there in the webinar today,OpusXenta. Our next webinar series probably won't be until August now. So I would say to everybody who's listening, just keep an eye out through that, through all of our normal social media channels. And I would hope to see you all again then. So again, Jon, thank you very much for your time.

Jon Prangnell

Thank you. Bye.

Lea-Ann McNeill

Thanks, everybody.