Culture and heritage

Lost but not forgotten - a guide to methods of identifying Aboriginal unmarked graves

This guide has been prepared to assist in the identification of Aboriginal unmarked graves. It is designed to be used by Aboriginal communities, NPWS staff, consultant archaeologists and others who wish to locate the exact position of Aboriginal graves for the purposes of conservation.

The guide has been developed especially to aid identification of those post-1788 graves of Aboriginal people which, for various reasons, are today not marked. These graves have no headstones, wooden crosses or any other markers on the ground surface which indicate or commemorate the presence of an underlying grave. The unmarked nature of these graves leaves them vulnerable to accidental disturbance or even destruction.

A range of grave identification techniques are outlined in the guide. The guide gives a brief explanation of how each technique works, where it works effectively, what its limitations are, and what it costs.

The guide consists of three parts:

  • Section 1 - An introduction to the problem of unmarked grave identification and an overview of available identification techniques.
  • Section 2 - A review of the scope and limitations of individual techniques, including case studies relevant to the identification of unmarked graves.
  • Section 3 - A basic guide to commissioning a specialist unmarked grave identification study, explaining how non-specialists can undertake background research to select the most appropriate techniques and optimise the chances of a successful survey.


Documents to download


The format and structure of this publication may have been adapted for web delivery.

Page last updated: 26 February 2011