Flinders University archaeologists have radar mapped the Kingscote pioneer cemetery hoping to identify all the long lost grave sites.
The archaeologists used cutting edge subsurface imaging technology to map the oldest cemetery in South Australia for the Kangaroo Island Pioneers Association.
The Kingscote mapping took place over two days on Thursday and Friday, May 9-10.
The project was funded thanks to grant funding from the History Trust's annual South Australian History Fund grants program to the Kangaroo Island Pioneers Association.
Leading the Kingscote mapping project was Dr Ian Moffat, Senior Research Fellow in Archaeological Sciences at Flinders University.
Dr Moffat has used Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and GPS surveys to non-invasively map the location of unmarked graves within cemeteries around Australia, most recently at Lake Wangary near Port Lincoln.
GPR is a geophysical technique that uses high frequency electromagnetic waves to image the subsurface, making it ideal for mapping changes in lithology or soil structure.
Assisting Dr Moffat in Kingscote last week was Masters student Hayley Bishop and PhD students Tiago Attorre and Michael Everett.
Representatives of the Kangaroo Island Pioneer Association, secretary Anthea Taylor and Chris Ward, travelled over to the Island last week to check on the mapping project.
"What we would like to know is how many graves we have here, and this has been the subject of much heated debate about how many people were buried in this the original cemetery," Anthea Taylor said.
There was some evidence of graves being moved to the new cemetery, which further complicated matters, she said.
Also checking on the progress was Kym Scholz from the National Trust and Hope Cottage Museum.
The earliest burial probably would have been the emigrant William Howlett, who arrived on the ship Emma on October 5,1836 and died between November 11 and 13, 1836.
Lucy Beare who died in 1837, less than 12 months after the first South Australian settlers arrived in Kingscote, was probably the first female settler buried in the cemetery.
The oldest grave in the new Kingscote cemetery dates back to 1879, meaning those died between those dates would have been buried in the pioneer cemetery.
This could potentially be up anywhere between 10 to 100 graves, many more than those marked with headstones.
The archaeologists mapped the entire 1-acre cemetery area and also covered an area outside the fences, which also could potentially contain graves.
And they worked in very muddy conditions due to the recent rains.
They also flew a drone over the cemetery to create a base map with existing trees and gravestones.
The radar worked by looking at the layers in the soil profile and any grave dug and refilled would show up a disturbance, although the archaeologists had to decipher other anomalies such a tree roots, Dr Moffat said.
The map showing all of the identified graves would take about two weeks complete, after which it would be presented to the KI Pioneers Association.