header gravesite


On site and ready to go!
On site and ready to go!


These are the roles and responsibilities of people on the site visit from the perspective of the community.



The community
Community gems


The community

  • Advise and guide the archaeologists where archaeological features and any gravesites might be.
  • Remind the archaeologists the route of the proposed road keeps changing and they need to keep the scope of the search wide to accommodate that.
  • Share knowledge with those present of how the site was used in the past.
  • Warn the archaeologists of any issues that might affect the search such as, for example, buried metal.
  • Challenge each others memories and test each others credibility to establish the best possible truth.
  • Take notes and photographs.


The archaeologists

  • Search for archaeological evidence on the proposed route of the road.
  • Listen to the community.
  • Take notes and measurements.
  • Keep the community informed of matters that might affect the search (such as metal interfering with the search equipment).
  • Advise the community of their methodology.
  • Ask for assistance.
  • Manage hazards, health and safety.

Historic Places Trust

  • Observe.
  • Provide assistance where necessary.

The journalist

  • Observe.
  • Interview people.
  • Take photographs.
Jim Chipp
Does he see the gravesite?

Advising and guiding the archaeologists

Ted, Murray, Gwen and Ronnie went and stood where they recalled the gravesite. There was a lot of walking about and orientation to get positions right. Each were spoken to by Mary O'Keeffe, the lead archaeologist.

Some markers of the past were now gone. For example, Gwen said that there used to be trees all around the grave in her youth. Ronnie supported her memory by saying that some of the trees had come down during his lifetime and was able to demonstrate where he remembered the front row of the trees.

Claire reminded Mary that there is also a site identified by the late Len Stebbings, up on a bench, cut into the hillside nearby.


Gwen Silvester knows        Photo: Jim Chipp
Gwen Silvester knows Photo: Jim Chipp


Ronnie Pender shows the way  Photo: Jim Chipp
Ronnie Pender shows the way Photo: Jim Chipp


Whoops! Maybe Ronnie's not right
Whoops! Maybe Ronnie's not right!


Up there?
Up there?


Maybe this way?
Maybe this way?


Preparing the site

Mary advised that she is only searching the open area, not the areas where the proposed route is covered in blackberry and regenerating bush.

The site is divided into three grids defined by a pegged tape-measure. The community asked for the site to be extended where Murray and Gwen believe the grave is located and Mary did this.

The magnetometer reading is affected by metal. For this reason the search will not pass over a single strand fence beside the creek. This fence becomes a defining boundary for the search, as does a wire fence at the north end of the stock yards. An overhead electricity wire is too far away to affect the reading.

Laying the tape
Laying the tape

All about the magnetometer

Dr Hans Bader was in charge of the magnetometer. Hans advises that the magnetometer, a Fluxgate gradiometer is believed to be the only one used in Australia and New Zealand by archaeologists.

The magnetometer technology was designed and developed in Germany. It was originally developed during World War II and used on the rear of aeroplanes to locate submarines in the North Sea.

How it works

Hans explained that top soil records 100% more magnetic presence than sub-soil.

“If you dig and hole and back fill it, the device will record the magnetic difference in the soil as it passes over the hole” he explained. “The deeper the hole, the more difference in the reading.”

As Hans passes the magnetometer over the soil, it gathers numerical data. The numerical data is subsequently downloaded into another device and printed out. Hans will then interpret the readings. For example, the presence of a gravesite might be indicated by dense readings in a rectangular shape with straight edges.

Mary warned that fallen and rotted trees can sometimes give a similar reading as a gravesite.

Hans says he can provide a reading within 20 minutes of downloading it. A decision is made to wait until all the data is gathered and considered.

Hans in action
Hans in action

Hans in action

Once the grid is pegged and its measurements are recorded, Hans marked his starting point. He then strides over the paddock with his magnetometer “floating” over the ground. He strides back and forth quite fast, criss-crossing the site in an even sweep.

There is little for the community to do at this stage. A decision is made to adjourn to the local cafe for lunch.

After lunch conversation

After lunch Claire returned to the site. The archaeologists had finished their work and were resting. Claire asked Hans and Mary whether it is usual to bring a magnetometer onto an archaeological site. Mary says that this is usually only done when there is a liklihood of a person buried on the site. Hans explained that in Europe a magnetometer is always used on road building sites as a standard practice. However, on the positive side, he says that New Zealand has a different approach to caring for buried people than in Europe.

"In Europe people are starting to ask questions," he said. "They wonder if it is such a good thing to move a body and store it elsewhere. They are starting to think that there might be a better way to manage the site."

Claire asks what it is that makes New Zealand handle its buried people differently.

Hans and Mary say that it is the Maori culture.

"The Maori approach toward a deceased person has become immersed in the New Zealand culture so much it has become the New Zealand way," says Mary. "Most people are not even aware of it."

What next?

Tomorrow Hans is taking his magnetometer up to Te Horo where there is development taking place on some sand dunes. Mary says that she will return to meet with the community in about two weeks time and report on the findings.

Somewhere here a lonely settler lies
Somewhere here a lonely settler lies