Degree Name

Master of Research


School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences


Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is a geophysical tool that images the subsurface and has gained acceptance across a myriad of fields. It is because of this non-destructive method that GPR has been used effectively in archaeological and forensic prospection to locate unmarked or clandestine burials where minimal disturbance is imperative. Prevailing scenarios that are commonly seen in both forensic cases and the archaeological record are the use of both lime (CaO or Ca(OH)2) and gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O). The custom of human remains covered in lime or gypsum has been linked to several phenomena perpetuated throughout human antiquity. Additionally, mummified remains are also seen in both archaeological cases in the context of ritualistic preservation or in forensic circumstances in relation to unintentional corpse concealment in potential homicide investigations. This study aims to address the efficacy of GPR to detect these burial scenarios. At the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), six human remains were buried with either lime, with gypsum, buried postmummification, or naturally. A GPR and total station survey was conducted over the experimental graves in order to acquire two-dimensional datasets for analysis at 1-3 years after initial internment. Additionally, raw data from Schotsmans et al.’s 2015 GPR survey on similar burial scenarios in Belgium was processed to conduct a comparative analysis between the two studies. Results revealed prominent hyperbolic reflections in the dataset collected from the GPR survey in Belgium while no strong hyperbolic reflections were produced in the dataset associated with the GPR survey conducted at the AFTER facility. Mechanical issues related to the GPR were confirmed by another dataset collected at the facility at the same time which did detect graves with prominent hyperbola. This study confirms that even in a controlled setting, the detection of archaeological burial scenarios is challenging as the many factors that affect geophysical equipment is proven to be complex as well as the instrument itself. Therefore, this study highlights the need for further experimental research using geophysical equipment and to be aware of factors that may negatively affect the GPR response.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.