International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 782-805

First online:

Understanding Cultural History Using Ground-Penetrating Radar Mapping of Unmarked Graves in the Mapoon Mission Cemetery, Western Cape York, Queensland, Australia

  • Mary-Jean SuttonAffiliated withSchool of Social Science, University of Queensland Email author 
  • , Lawrence B. ConyersAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Denver
  • , With contributions by Alma Day, Harriet Flinders, Florence Luff, Susie Madua, Zoe De Jersey, Stan De Jersey, Roy Savo, and William BuschAffiliated withElders

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The Mapoon Mission Cemetery in Cape York, Queensland contains unmarked pre-contact burials with potential national heritage values, despite a lack of formal recognition and protection through State and National heritage listings. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) showed great potential as a non-intrusive technique to identify over 120 potential unmarked graves and understand mortuary practices at the Cemetery. When integrated with written and oral histories, such information provided new insights into the cultural history of this region, particularly the continuity of Aboriginal occupation and changes in mortuary practices since the establishment of the Mapoon Mission.


Missions Mapoon Ground-penetrating radar Unmarked graves Burial detection