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Cemeteries: a special kind of landfill. The context of their sustainable management. Groundwater: sustainable solutions

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[Paper assembled by Author: page numbers added: Publication ISBN 0-646-35127-3
Dent, B.B. and Knight, M.J., 1998, Cemeteries: A special kind of landfill. The context of their sustainable
management., Groundwater: Sustainable Solutions, Conference of the International Association of
Hydrogeologists, Melbourne, Feb. '98, 451 – 456]
Cemeteries: A Special Kind of Landfill.
The context of their sustainable management.
Boyd B. Dent 1 and Michael J. Knight1
1National Centre for Groundwater Management, University of Technology, Sydney,
Broadway, NSW 2007, AUSTRALIA
ABSTRACT: In Australia, the National Study of Cemetery Groundwaters has been underway for 1.5 years.
This is a general hydrogeochemical and microbiological assessment of groundwaters in aquifers and as seepage
at 9 cemeteries, representing a considerable range of hydrogeological settings and soils. The interment (burial)
of human remains occurs within a complex paradigm of factors. Firstly, the range of natural aspects of the land,
its hydrogeology and climate; secondly, the management practices of the cemetery; thirdly, the funereal aspects
of the interment, for example, whether the remains are included in a coffin or not, or the presence of clothing
and artefacts; fourthly, the remains themselves including their age, size, and state of decomposition at burial.
Cemeteries are best thought of as special kinds of landfill in that they mostly comprise a limited range of
essentially organic matter covered by soil fill. Although they don’t necessarily create new space (like area
landfilling), the processes are akin to landfill cells below grade. Degradation follows different, somewhat less
predictable pathways than landfill. An understanding of the proper interrelationships of the various factors at
any cemetery is important in scientifically establishing its viability for re-use; the true sustainability of the site
including its impact on groundwater.
KEYWORDS: cemeteries, landfill, interment, re-use, planning
In Australia in 1996 approximately 46% of all funeral services resulted in interment (burial) of the
deceased (ACCA, 1997). Whilst this percentage reflects the growing trend towards cremation as a
preferred disposal option for the deceased in westernised societies, the proportion opting for interment
means that significant grave space needs to be found.
Using average death rates and "Low Case" population projections, as per the Australian Bureau of
Statistics (ABS, 1996), then about1.34 million Australian adults (>15 years) will die in the next 10
years (1998-2007). If just 40% of these are interred, and 75% of them occupy new graves of an
average size 1.1m by 2.4m; then 106ha of land will be consumed.
Most of this consumption, 67ha, will occur in the greater metropolitan areas of the capital cities,
since this is where approximately 63% of the population lives. This is roughly equivalent to 1100
standard building blocks of 600m2 each, and makes no allowance for associated paths, roads, gardens
and other infrastructure. Clearly this is a significant urban space requirement and a considerable
exposure to the processes of the hydrologic cycle.
The majority of the cemeteries in our major urban areas are now well demarked by other land
uses, and their boundaries well defined by historic land dedications. There is little room for expansion
of existing sites and most included space is either full or being rapidly consumed. Most of our capital
cities are now seeking land for cemetery dedication in the urban fringe areas, which to some extent
goes with expanding populations and urban sprawl. However, in only a few known cases, notably in
Melbourne, Victoria, is there sufficient free land to accommodate such activities. Concomitantly, the
city dwellers show a low inclination to bury their dead great distances from their homes, with the
consequence that older, closer-in cemeteries are facing disproportionate pressures for burial space.
In Adelaide, South Australia, these pressures can be clearly seen at work in a large outer, but
confined, and a small, old, inner-city, cemetery – Centennial Park and Cheltenham General
respectively. By a fortuitous combination of the right-of-burial legislation in that State, and the
geography of the Adelaide urban area, these cemeteries are widely invoking the management practices
of grave re-tenure and re-use.
Grave re-use essentially comprises two forms; firstly where a relative to a previously deceased is
interred in the same grave, but at a shallower depth than the original interment. This practice is
widely used at most cemeteries; non participation in this practice usually results from various religious
or cultural bases. Secondly, the South Australian practice of "lift and deepen" is used. In this
situation, previously interred remains that are no longer licenced for exclusive burial, say by the
expiration of a 50 or 100 year lease, are gathered together in to an ossuary box or bag which is then
re-interred below the original grave invert, and the grave space then becomes available for standard
burials (up to three per grave) again.
The Australian industry is keen to develop and extend the re-use/re-tenure concept to answer the
problems of inadequate grave space into the future. This is a common practice for varying lengths of
interment in many overseas countries, and seems to be gaining acceptance where it is being used
today. At first glance this appears to be a sustainable land use.
With such pressures and practices as outlined, and in any case since it is largely an unknown, it
behoves society to consider whether there are any deleterious aspects to the burial of the deceased and
re-use of burial lands. Are there any primary or cumulative influences on the environment?
In 1996 the National Study of Cemetery Groundwaters was conceived in order to apply rigorous
scientific investigation towards answering these questions. Nine cemetery sites located in five states
and representing a diverse range of hydrogeological environments are currently being investigated.
Seventy two piezometers have been installed; a number of these in specially designed seepage wells
or trenches constructed in the unsaturated zone. Sampling from these piezometers will occur for about
6 events, completing at the end of 1998.
All water samples are being broadly screened for a wide range of inorganic analytes, as well as
BOD, and a suite of microbiological (bacterial) indicator organisms including coliform species,
Faecal streptococci, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In previous work, at Botany Cemetery, New
South Wales, Dent (1995) found that the array of common anions and ammonia, were the most
diagnostic for discerning decay products from interred remains. Strict protocols for piezometer
construction, sampling, equipment cleaning and testing are used in all sites, and all sampling is
undertaken by the senior author only.
There is a vast array of ethical and practical problems to be resolved in establishing any one site.
No sampling points are located in graves. The confined nature and/or high usage rate of many
cemeteries makes them difficult sites in which to establish piezometers. In particular it is often
difficult to establish unequivocal background sampling points; especially when working from the
position that all sampling points must be located within the cemetery boundaries.
When rain falls on a cemetery the usual interactions of the landuse and the hydrologic
cycle must apply. The water can either re-evaporate, pool, run off, or infiltrate in or on the
land and its structures. When water infiltrates it will come in to contact with interred remains
and the artefactual materials that occur with them. According to the individual
hydrogeological setting of the cemetery, natural attenuation of the hydrogeochemistry and
biota will occur, or not, as the case may be. The decay products may leave the cemetery
boundaries depending on the degree of constituent accumulation, flow paths of the water, the
relative location of remains in the cemetery and many other factors.
3.1 Factors
The amount of decay products moved from the interred remains to the watertable is
extremely difficult to quantify in space and time. Although it is possible to define an area of
newer interments with an accessible watertable in some cemeteries, like Botany, this is the
exception rather than the norm.
In most cemeteries there is likely to be one or more "General" areas currently being
utilised for those deceased with no particular religious, familial or cultural affiliations. Other
factors that affect the interment rates are whether or not the area is completed with lawn,
monuments or a combination of these. Moreover, these practices seem to reflect cemetery
operations and societal preferences most strongly developed in the last 20 years or so.
By far the most common operational practice, and one which significantly affects
quantitative studies, is the highly variable spatial and temporal emplacement of remains.
Burials take place in widely different parts of the cemeteries at different times. The picture is
further complicated in the older, fuller sites where interments are by re-use of a family plot.
This causes a vertical variation in time and space as the new interment sits on previously
filled and/or collapsed soil and grave structures. The larger the cemetery, the more likely this
variation is to occur.
The primary hydrogeological setting (particularly noting the water budget, types of soil,
and use of fill in the ground grading) is the first influence on the resultant cemetery
hydrogeochemistry. However, other factors also play a significant part in determining what
sort of decay loads can enter the soil and water. These fall into 2 more groupings; firstly the
funereal aspects of the interment, for example, whether the remains are included in a coffin or
not, the coffin construction, encapsulation of the remains in plastic, the presence of clothing
and artefacts in and around the coffin; secondly, the remains themselves including their age,
size, state of decomposition at burial, and other aspects that may relate to cultural attitudes,
post mortem examinations and/or embalming.
The resultant pathways and composition for any decay products are thus very complex.
In most sites observed, the individual grave also acts as a bucket and sponge. The disturbed
nature of the soil (even when watered back in to place to assist consolidation) in the grave,
even if covered with lawn or monument, attracts and holds water for varying lengths of time.
Thus areas of cemeteries which were initially dry to dig are frequently wet at grave level and
seepage is observable from grave to grave. This situation is exacerbated by the long term
usage (at least since the mid 1970s), in most areas, of plastic lined coffins. Until the weight
of overlying soil, or the decay processes collapse the coffin, it also remains as a bucket. An
important effect of this is that the coffin bucket holds many decay products, further affecting
the temporal and spatial release of these products to the ground.
The National Study in part attempts to focus on encapsulation aspects related to
religious/cultural practices but it is uncertain whether this can be delineated on a cemetery-
wide scale. The influence of coffin type, for example pine, hardwood, steel, bronze,
cardboard and fastenings and ornamentation, may also have measurable effects. The practice
of embalming is relatively uncommon in Australia, but wherever practiced may also
contribute to a measurable effect, for example in the detection of formaldehyde. The only
known examinations of this aspect however, Chan et al. (1992) and BEAK (1992), did not
find any significant effect, although they were quite limited studies.
3.2 Groundwater Composition
The groundwaters in aquifers beneath cemeteries clearly reflect regional
hydrogeochemistry and additions from the decaying remains. Seepage waters on the other
hand are more likely to represent short term soil-water interactions and any readily mobile
decay products; which in terms of mass, mostly derive from the human remains.
The reference, lean, 70kg adult male, human body contains: 16,000g carbon, 1,800g
nitrogen, 1,100g calcium, 500g phosphorous, 140g sulfur, 140g potassium, 100g sodium, 95g
chlorine, 19g magnesium, 4.2g iron and water 70 – 74% by weight; the female proportions
are 2/3 - 3/4 of these (Forbes, 1987). Proportions for most of the other elements – trace
elements and heavy metals, rapidly decrease to milli- and micro-mole amounts. Cadmium for
instance is 0.05g, and mercury is highly variable depending on lifetime exposure and dental
The sampling for the National Study is from very diverse hydrogeological settings and
some indication of these is noted in Table 1. This table shows the analyses of background
and downgradient groundwater samples from three sites representing three rounds of
sampling from each, compared to similar wells or bores wholly located within the cemeteries.
Seepage wells are 450mm diameter and are used as temporary storages in sites dominated by
spring flow or low hydraulic conductivity soils. The comparative well at The Necropolis is
topographically downgradient, and at the boundary.
The sites considered are: Woronora, in a southern Sydney suburb, New South Wales,
where residual sandy clays and minor clayey sands, often lateritised, overly a quartz
sandstone (Hawkesbury Sandstone formation) with substantial siltstone lenses (the seepage
wells are at 2.0-4.5m depth); The Necropolis, at Springvale a southeastern suburb of
Melbourne, Victoria, where densely unconsolidated, firm clays to 10-12m overly sandy silts,
silty sands (Brighton Group) containing a phreatic aquifer at 14-28m (the seepage wells are at
2.5-5.5m depth); Guildford an eastern suburb of Perth, Western Australia, where
unconsolidated shallow marine deposits of clayey and silty sands and fine sands (Bassendean
Sand) have a phreatic aquifer at 1.8-4.5m (3m piezometer screens straddle the watertable).
Table 1
Analyte Woronora The Necropolis Guildford
mg/L or
CFU/100mL 1x
background 2x internal
seepage wells comparative
seepage well 3x internal
seepage wells 1x
2x bores
at boundary
EC µS/cm 509-922 236-684 241-263 608-2204 603-1127 216-667
pH units 5.5-6.6 5.0-7.4 5.6-6.3 6.3-7.5 6.2-7.3 5.8-6.1
NO2-N 0-0.001 0-0.003 0-0.002 0-0.056 0.002-0.315 0-0.015
NO3-N 0.2-0.3 0-1.16 0-2.2 0-14.3 0.4-6.3 4.1-33.2
NH3-N 0-0.39 0.2-4.72 0-0.79 0-0.22 0.1-0.45 0-0.50
Tot N 0.10-0.25 0.55-3.9 0.3-0.8 1.2-21 1.0-4.2 18.1-45.0
PO4 0 0-0.85 1.6-2.55 0.5-1.6 0-1.9 0.06-4.7
Cl 85-170 24-41 40-45 42-390 133-160 20-33
SO4 57-77 17-56 3.2-3.7 48-290 66-95 0-21
TOC 2.0-19 1.6-12 2.0-4.0 0-30 58-73 4.0-23
BOD 5-21 3-16 4-6 0-9 <5-22 <5
Tot coliforms 0-2 0->500 0 3->2400 0-8 0-8
E. coli 0 0-2 0 0-10 0 0
F. streptococci. 0 0 0 0-22 0 0
Pseudomonas 0 0-4 0 0 0 0-11
From an examination of Table 1 it becomes apparent that the results show considerable
variation and are overall low values. Furthermore, the internal waters often appear to have
lower concentrations of inorganics than the background waters, for example, chloride, sulfate,
TOC, BOD, pH and electrical conductivity (EC). It must be borne in mind, however, that
only a few, early, results are presented here. From the same analysis it can also be said that
the internal cemetery waters are significantly higher in nitrogen, phosphate, and bacterial
These data alone are evidence that decay products are measurable and could have an
influence elsewhere in the environment. If one begins with the premise that no waste
products of any burial activity should leave the generating site's boundaries, then there is
room for consideration of what levels of off-site movement of decay products can be
permitted. In addition, what management/operational strategies should be implemented to
limit this movement.
The sampling to date has taken place in a time period of reduced rainfall over much of
Australia and all the sites discussed. It is possible that in some situations higher rainfall
regimes will alter the concentrations of decay products, and as watertables rise, make them
more readily available to groundwater systems.
Typical management practices in cemeteries, mostly driven by public health legislation,
require that all burials take place above known watertables. Most cemetery operators also
look for sites with deep soils which, because of their clay content, will be able to be
excavated by machine and have walls that will stand up for at least 24 hours. In less
favourable locations, or for aesthetic or operational reasons, some areas are extensively filled.
The results of the present National Study certainly endorse the strict burial of remains
above watertables. The presence of the pathogenic bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa and
Feacal streptococci, widely found throughout the sites, albeit in small to very small amounts,
as well as other indicator coliform bacteria suggest, that in some hydrogeological settings,
microbiological decay products are being carried in the groundwaters. The chemical analyses
also show slightly elevated nutrients and other solutes related to the decay processes. In
many cases the affected waters are free to leave the cemetery boundaries.
What does not seem to have been appreciated in the past however, is that cemeteries, like
much of their surrounding districts, frequently contain permanent or seasonal, perched
watertables. These are often reflected in springlines which has lead to some areas being free
from interments, but such seepage is sometimes not seen at the surface. When burials
commence in such areas, the decay processes are strongly influenced by the presence of extra
moisture and the resultant products are more susceptible to movement. In addition, in all
cases, the bucket effect is at work which increases ground moisture, and creates ephemeral
watertable effects. Many cemetery areas are irrigated for lawn and garden purposes. This
practice further distorts the natural water budget and encourages the wetting up of graves.
Cemetery processes are complex; they vary widely in time and space. It is convenient to
develop a model in order to comprehensively consider the role, impact and operations of a
cemetery entity. Cemeteries are a special kind of landfill. In essence, small quantities of
organic waste are placed below surface level and covered with soil. No new ground is
created, yet an excess of overburden accumulates. The site is well developed in a parklike
manner and the area reserved from future occupation or building, in perpetuity. The sites are
large and occupy a significant place in the hydrologic cycle with which they readily interact.
Traceable plumes of decay products are generated and these could move offsite. The whole
hydrogeochemistry relies on natural attenuation, although there could be some effect of
accumulation of metals in skeletal materials whilst they persist.
This is most comparable to an unlined trench or cell for disposal of municipal wastes. In
the case of cemeteries, however, there are probably fewer processes at work, working at
different rates, and much less controlled (Figure 1). They are particularly subject to the soil
composition and structure. The interred materials are not excluded from atmospheric
interaction, and oxygen (via the soil) and freely moving water, are present in the graves.
Various soil conditions limit this interaction.
Figure 1 Comparison of Landfills
Typically, proposals for cemetery development do not seem to generate the high level of
investigation and geoscientific focus that landfills do. Neither do they result in the extensive
ground preparation and staged conceptualisation of operations of the landfills. These are
serious deficiencies. There are now sufficiently strong grounds for asserting that cemeteries
must have buffer zones on all boundaries but particularly on topographic lows and lowermost
portions of hydraulic gradients. These should be planted with substantial, deep-rooting,
native trees that will consume large volumes of groundwater, rather than lawns that are
unlikely to do this and which may also permit excessive infiltration. No interment should lie
at the cemetery boundary. Buffer zones in sandy areas should be larger than those in clayey
soils but at the present cannot be prescribed for size. The development of cemeteries from
the outside-in may assist in dispersing deleterious solutes, microbiological organisms or
nutrients, and limiting their concentration as they will not now flow from older to newer
burial areas.
On balance, cemeteries strongly distort the local hydrologic cycle, and operators,
managers and designers of cemeteries should take this into account. New cemetery proposals
and extensions should be properly assessed from a geoscientific perspective prior to detailed
planning. The likelihood of off-site groundwater movement needs to be investigated and an
assessment made of within-cemetery soil/operational aspects.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 1996. Projections of the Populations of Australia,
States and Territories, 1995-2051. Report 3222.0, Aust. Govt. Publishing Service, 139p.
Australian Cemeteries & Crematoria Association (ACCA), 1997. Cremation in Australia.
ACCA News Winter, pp.16-17
Beak Consultants Limited (BEAK), 1992. Soil and Groundwater Quality Study of the Mount
Pleasant Cemetery. Rept. for Commemorative Services of Ontario and Arbor Capital Inc.,
Chan, G.S., M. Scafe and S. Emami, 1992. Cemeteries and Groundwater: An Examination of
the Potential Contamination of Groundwater by Preservatives Containing Formaldehyde.
Rept. Water Resources Branch, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, 11p.
Dent, B.B., 1995. Hydrogeological Studies at Botany Cemetery, New South Wales. M.Sc.
Proj. Rept., Univ. of Tech., Sydney, unpub.
Forbes, G.B., 1987. Human Body Composition; Growth, Aging, Nutrition, and Activity.
Springer- Verlag, New York, 380p.
... There are many potential contaminants introduced by cemeteries, which have been described as a 'special landfill' (Dent andKnight 1998, Fiedler et al 2012). Potential contaminants introduced by cemeteries include heavy metals (Fiedler et al 2012), unique products of the embalming and burial process such as formaldehyde (Chan, 1992, Oliveira et al 2012, pharmaceuticals (Fiedler et al 2018), and bacteria and viruses (Ucisik andRushbrook 1998,Żychowski andBryndal 2015). ...
... Nitrogen compounds are a logical byproduct of degradation of buried remains, given that nitrogen is second only to water and carbon in the composition of the human body (Ucisik and Rushbrook 1998). Others have similarly observed elevated nitrate concentrations in groundwater sampled from monitoring wells and piezometers in cemeteries, with concentrations ranging from below detection limit to as high as 180 mg l −1 NO 3 − (Chan et al 1992, Dent and Knight 1998,Żychowski 2012, Brenner et al, 2018. For context, our observations of cemetery groundwater nitrate concentrations are comparable to mean concentrations of nitrate in groundwater samples from golf courses (4.8 mg l −1 NO 3 − ; Bock and Easton 2020). ...
... We observed sulfate, chloride and magnesium concentrations were significantly elevated in cemetery groundwater relative to residential groundwater, although these differences were not as highly significant in the case of chloride (p = 0.03) and the year-round range of these concentrations in residential groundwater overlaps the range observed in the cemetery (figure 3). Others have observed elevated concentrations of chloride and sulfate in cemetery groundwater relative to control sites (Van Haaren 1951, Trick et al 2001, 2005,Żychowski 2012), although not all prior studies show this consistently for these solutes (Dent and Knight 1998). Groundwater in the study area is strongly influenced by gypsum dissolution, which provides a natural source of high sulfate concentrations (Ledford and Lautz 2015). ...
Full-text available
Residential development and urbanization have increased nutrient loads to streams and groundwater through increased use of fertilizers and discharge of wastewater effluent. Stream degradation in urbanizing areas has simultaneously reduced natural attenuation of nutrients. In this context, cemeteries are an often-overlooked land use that may contribute to nutrient loading in urbanizing watersheds. Although cemeteries provide ecosystem services, such as infiltration of stormwater, micrometeorology control, and greenspace, they also pose a unique threat to groundwater quality due to degradation and leaching of organic material. To assess the potential legacy impact of cemeteries on water quality, we explored the impact of a large cemetery that comprises 9% of the total area of a suburban watershed on groundwater nitrate concentrations and stream nitrate loads. We found nitrate concentrations were significantly higher in cemetery groundwater (median = 6.2 mg l⁻¹) than in residential groundwater (median = 0.05 mg l⁻¹). During summer months (June through September), the stream is consistently a gaining stream receiving groundwater discharge. During this time, stream nitrate concentrations increase by 1.4–1.9 mg l⁻¹ between the upstream edge of the cemetery and the downstream edge (from 0.03–0.46 mg l⁻¹ to 1.6 mg l⁻¹–2.1 mg l⁻¹, respectively). Stream nitrate loads observed at gauging stations located about 500 m upstream and downstream of the cemetery property show that the stream nitrate load is consistently 20–40 kg NO3 ⁻/day higher downstream of the cemetery between June to September. Given that the cemetery handles about 350–500 burials per year, it is estimated that 25%–50% of the nitrate load between the gauging stations could be attributable to groundwater discharge of burial decay products. Our observations of nitrate concentrations in cemetery groundwater, coupled with the increases in nitrate loads in a stream traversing the cemetery property, suggest cemeteries may be an overlooked source of nutrient loading in developed watersheds.
... The overall process of corpse treatment, from the initial autopsy and embalming to the final disposal in burial sites or cremation, generates several potential contaminants capable of dispersing to the urban and environment (Gwenzi, 2021). The burial sites of stacked coffins or not, are generally placed under the ground (Dent and Knight, 2018). After a period, the decomposing process of the bodies takes place, where biological and chemical reactions are generated This contamination process leads to the urban environment, harming and attributes risks to the population, especially those who live in areas close to cemeteries (Oliveira et al., 2013). ...
... Their finding shows that the burial sites' leachates lead to the increase of several microorganisms in the aquifers. Dent and Knight (2018) investigated the Australian cemeteries, to compare the hydrogeochemical and microbiological assessment of groundwater in aquifers with traditional landfills. The authors classified cemeteries as a special kind of landfill, where the degradation of organic matter follows a similar behavior with a less predictive degradation pathway. ...
Full-text available
In recent years the funeral industry has drawn attention from the scientific community concerning the potential pollution of the environment and the urban environment. In this review, the pollution caused by the cemeteries and crematoria around the world was addressed. The traditional burial leads to the production of ions, in the form of organic and heavy metals, bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that spread along with the soil and underwater. The crematoria produce small particles, trace gases (SOx, NOx, CO), and toxic organic volatiles. The effluent generated by both methods can lead to several environmental problems and further threaten human health. The current solution for the cemeteries in the development of a system in which effluent generated by the traditional burials are collected and treated before realizing in the environment. In addition to that, the green burial should be an alternative, since the corpse does not go through the embalming process, thus eliminating the presence of any undesired chemicals, that are further leached onto the environment. The crematoria should be employed as it is, however, the gas treatment station should be employed, to ensure the minimization of the impact on the environment. Last, future researches regarding the treatment of the cemeteries leached still need to be explored as well as the optimization and further development of the crematoria gas treatment process.
... Both soil texture and body mass of the deceased affect the vertical migration of decomposition fluids (Carter et al. 2007). In coffins, liquids are prone to collect, but the outcome is dependent on the coffin design and permeability of both coffin and the surrounding matrix (e.g., Dent and Knight 1998;Garland andJanaway 1989, Janaway 2002;Mant 1987). In the present study, a similar decomposition mass as that described by Mant (1987) was retained, which was noted to have an effect on limb movement of D1. ...
... For example, a Portuguese cemetery had several coffins filled with water upon opening c. five years following burial (Ferreira and Cunha 2013), and water was found in coffins at some English medieval cemeteries (Green 2018:51, 197;Rodwell 2007). In addition to groundwater levels affecting water collection in coffins, coffins are prone to water infiltration from above ground, as the infill of soil in graves is more permeable to rain and surface flow than intact soil, a socalled bucket effect (Dent and Knight 1998;Schotsmans et al. in press). The effect of water on bone displacement in containers has been described in several archaeothanatological studies (e.g., Blaizot 2014;Duday and Guillon 2006;Gleize 2020;Schotsmans et al. in press). ...
Full-text available
A qualitative actualistic human taphonomy study was conducted to analyze human decomposition and disarticulation in coffins. Two adult cadavers were placed in rectangular wooden coffins for around two and a half years for the purpose of the study. We used the archaeothanatological methodological framework to situate the actualistic study in a mortuary archaeological context. In addition to previously known factors acting on postmortem movement—including gravity, insect activity, water, and bloat—the results demonstrate that bone movement in coffins can be affected by the collection of decomposition by-products, including both movement of limbs during decomposition and stabilization of bones when the decomposition by-products solidified. The disarticulation sequence observed in the coffin differed from that proposed in previous archaeothanatological research and was conclusive with findings from earlier actualistic studies where disarticulation was demonstrated to be variable. We emphasize the importance of deducing what type of void context the deceased was originally placed in prior to interpretations of causative taphonomic agents, as different voids allow for a variability of potential taphonomic postmortem processes. To this end, archaeothanatological analyses are useful. This study confirms the importance of considering human taphonomy in situ for interpretations of mortuary treatment in connection to deposition.
... dolnośląskiego" finansowanego przez Ministerstwo Edukacji i Nauki z Programu Nauka dla Społeczeństwa, obszar badawczy: Humanistyka-Społeczeństwo-Tożsamość, są unikatowe w Polsce ze względu na swoją kompleksowość i liczbę analizowanych cmentarzy (106), jak również sposób upowszechniania wiedzy. W Europie inwentaryzację cmentarzy na terenach wiejskich zlokalizowanych przy kościołach prowadzili w dużej mierze badacze z Wielkiej Brytanii, szczególnie Szkocji (Dent, Knight, 1998;McClymont, Sinnett, 2021;Mitchell, Noble, 2017;Nordh, et al., 2021;Rae, 2021) ze względu na dużą liczbę historycznych cmentarzy. ...
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Celem artykułu jest porównanie stanu zachowania i walorów krajobrazowych oraz kulturowych cmentarzy położonych w czterech gminach powiatu kłodzkiego w południowo-zachodniej części Polski, w woj. dolnośląskim. Na potrzeby artykułu wstępie przeprowadzono analizy dotyczące historii wsi, opisano demografię, rozwój miejscowości, budowę kościołów oraz cmentarzy. badania kameralne opierały się o kwerendę biblioteczną i obejmowały analizę literaturę, wykorzystano również zasoby zbirów ikonograficznych i kartograficznych. W artykule porównano zmiany dotyczących układu, architektury, krajobrazu na terenie cmentarzy w powiecie kłodzkim we wsiach: Sokolec, Pasterka, Orłowiec i Kamieńczyk. Zwrócono uwagę na to. że obecnie przykościelne cmentarze będące reliktem przeszłości ulegają powolnemu i systematycznemu niszczeniu i z biegiem czasu zaciera się ich układ przestrzenny, zniszczeniu ulegają bramy, ogrodzenia, nagrobki, czasem zniwelowane zostaje całe pole grzebalne oraz mała architektura.
... However, too much water can have a negative effect on decomposition, hence slowing the process. The RGC experiments investigated the 'bucket effect' as first expounded by Dent and Knight (1998). The disturbed nature of the soil means that the grave attracts and holds water. ...
... A cemetery determines the development and character of its surrounding. Therefore, it is important to locate it properlywith respect for natural conditions (Cottle, 1997;Dent and Knight, 1998;Rocque, 2017), using available infrastructure and building conditions (Ismali, Omar and Majeed, 2007;Długozima, 2020b), at the same time with adjustments to its social context (Salisbury, 2002;Dian, 2004;Shaker Ardekani, Akhgar and Zagihi, 2015): see Figure 1. ...
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Valorisation of land is an important tool for countries around the world to help regulate land use planning and ensure sustainable development. Cemeteries are multifaceted spaces, providing a keystone community infrastructure. Poorly located cemeteries can generate adverse environmental, landscape and community outcomes. Identifying optimal sites for cemeteries will become an increasing concern for land use planners as population numbers and consequent death rates increase while the amount of available land decreases. This study was conducted with the aim of proposing multi-criteria analysis for identifying some optimal sites for cemeteries. This analysis was implemented in Białystok (297,585 inhabitants, in Podlaskie Voivodeship, Poland), where 11 potential areas for the location of a new cemetery were assessed. Through a comprehensive process of investigation, engagement, and analysis, four options in different locations were identified as suitable for further consideration. Two sites (options 7 and 11) had fatal flaws – high risk and effects associated with development and were not recommended to be taken forward.
... Microbial communities from individuals A and B showed greater intra-individual dispersion, potentially as an effect of stacking the bodies within the grave, which likely promoted skin and tissue preservation on the torsos of A and B. Decomposition materials pooled to the grave base, primarily as a result of gravity. Soil encompassing individuals was disturbed during interment, decreasing soil compaction, and thereby promoting increased drainage to the grave base, creating a water bucket and sponge-like effect (29,30). This was reflected in soil microbial communities at the grave base and further supported from a sample of mixed soil and organic material collected from within the rib cage of individual C. Microbial communities from the deep soil samples and mixed organic material in the rib cage deviated from the communities of other grave soil samples and were more similar in community composition and abundance to bone samples. ...
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Understanding the microbes that colonize and degrade bone has important implications for preservation of skeletal elements and identification of unknown human remains. Current research on the postmortem bone microbiome is limited and largely focuses on archaeological or marine contexts.
... The cemetery or burial ground's potential to pollute the environment, and their risk management, has been the subject of research (Hall and Hanbury 1990;Pacheco et al. 1991;Janaway 1997;Üçisik and Rushbrook 1998;Dent and Knight 1998;Young et al. 1999;Spongberg and Becks 2000a, b;Hart 2005;Dippenaar, 2014 Buss et al. 2003;Dent 2005;Pollard et al. 2008). Pollard et al., (2008) proposed a risk based decision making frameworks which has been widely used in UK and other parts of Europe. ...
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Cemeteries have been identified as a possible source of groundwater and environmental pollution. This may be due to wrong siting of cemeteries, poor soil selection and very thin vadose zone. This study was carried out to audit the impact of burial practices on their immediate environment. Method of approach include; assessing possible water contamination, studying the vadose hydrological characteristics as well as studying the geotechnical properties of soils within the vadose zone. Water samples from the vicinity of both cemeteries shows probable contamination with an average pH of 6.19 for Ede and 6.57 for Iragbiji, EC with an average 480μS for Ede and 1210μS for Iragbiji. Biological constituents found within the area include; enterobacteriaceae (salmonella spp., serratia spp., proteus spp., shigella spp.), suggesting likely contamination of both surface and groundwater around the vicinity of the cemeteries. Most cations and anions analysed for (Mg2+, NO -, SO 2-, and PO 3-) comply with the WHO standards based 3 4 4 on their maximum permissible limits (MPL). Geotechnical investigations revealed that soils within the study areas are largely unsuitable for a standard cemetery due to their high moisture content, poor grading characteristics, low compaction value, poor hydraulics characteristics and shallow water level. The study concluded that cemeteries from both towns have a negative impact on their immediate environment due to poor selection of soil materials (porous and permeable sandy soil) as reflected in the quality of surface and groundwater. Keywords: cemetery, decomposition, surface water, groundwater contamination, soils.
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Purpose: Aiming to map the scientific and technological production involving the contamination and bioremediation of this compound, a technological prospection study was conducted based on articles published in the last 20 years, in the Scopus and Web of Science databases. Theoretical framework: Necrochorume is a liquid derived from human decomposition, with a high contaminating potential and presenting a serious health hazard. Method/design/approach: The study was carried out using 5 keywords and their combinations, which were divided into 2 groups and treated using Microsoft Excel. For the first group, the combinations were used: “Necrochorume”, “necrochorume and contamination”, “cemeteries and contamination”, “cemetery leachate and contamination”. For the second group, we used: “Necrochorume and bioremediation”, “cemeteries and bioremediation” and “cemetery leachate and bioremediation”. Results and conclusion: The keys with the most results were "cemeteries and contamination", with 74 results in the Scopus database and 76 in the Web of Science, where it was analyzed that, of the 74 articles found in Scopus, only 37 alluded to the necrochorume, and in the Web of Science, 59 articles addressed the subject of interest. The only bioremediation keyword combination that found results was “cemeteries and bioremediation”, with 4 articles in the Scopus database and no results in the Web of Science. The VosViewer program was used to survey the occurrences of the main keywords throughout the study period. Research implications: As a main result, it was observed that there is a scarcity of publications related to its infection and its contaminating potential, as well as its bioremediation. Originality/value: It is also highlighted, based on the studies found, the extreme need to develop techniques that enable the safe use of soils and aquifers contaminated by necrochorume, as well as preventing the occurrence of contamination by the compost.
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The recent COVID-19 disease has highlighted the need for further research around the risk to human health and the environment because of mass burial of COVID-19 victims. Despite SARS-CoV-2 being an enveloped virus, which is highly susceptible to environmental conditions (temperature, solar/UV exposure). This review provides insight into the potential of SARS-CoV-2 to contaminate groundwater through burial sites, the impact of various types of burial practices on SARS-CoV-2 survival, and current knowledge gaps that need to be addressed to ensure that humans and ecosystems are adequately protected from SARS-CoV-2. Data available shows temperature is still likely to be the driving factor when it comes to survival and infectivity of SARS-CoV-2. Research conducted at cemetery sites globally using various bacteriophages (MS2, PRD1, faecal coliforms) and viruses (TGEV, MHV) as surrogates for pathogenic enteric viruses to study the fate and transport of these viruses showed considerable contamination of groundwater, particularly where there is a shallow vadose zone and heterogeneous structures are known to exist with very low residence times. In addition, changes in solution chemistry (e.g., decrease in ionic strength or increase in pH) during rainfall events produces large pulses of released colloids that can result in attached viruses becoming remobilised, with implications for groundwater contamination. Viruses cannot spread unaided through the unsaturated zone. Since groundwater is too deep to be in contact with the interred body and migration rates are very slow, except where preferential flow paths are known to exist, the groundwater table will not be significantly impacted by contamination from SARS-CoV-2. When burial takes place using scientifically defensible methods the possibility of infection will be highly improbable. Furthermore, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has helped us to prepare for other eventualities such as natural disasters where mass fatalities and subsequently burials may take place in a relatively short space of time.
Man has always been curious about himself, a curiosity that began centuries ago with an examination of the soul, and that extended in the period of the Renaissance to his anatomy and certain functions such as the circulation of the blood. Chemical science entered the scene in the 18th century, and burst into prominence in the 19th century. As the various chemical elements were discovered, many were found to be present in body fluids and tissues. Organic compounds were recognized; it became known that body heat was produced by the combustion of food; chemical transformations such as the production of fat from carbohydrate were recognized; and in the 1850s it was determined that young animals differed from adults in certain aspects of body composition. As methods for chemical analysis evolved, they were applied to samples of body fluids and tissues, and it became apparent that life depended on chemical normality; and most importantly it was realized that given the necessary amount of food and water the body had the ability to maintain a degree of constancy of what Claude Bernard called the milieu interieur, in other words its interior chemical en­ vironment.
Projections of the Populations of Australia, States and Territories
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 1996. Projections of the Populations of Australia, States and Territories, 1995-2051. Report 3222.0, Aust. Govt. Publishing Service, 139p.
Soil and Groundwater Quality Study of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Rept. for Commemorative Services of Ontario and Arbor Capital Inc., unpub
Beak Consultants Limited (BEAK), 1992. Soil and Groundwater Quality Study of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Rept. for Commemorative Services of Ontario and Arbor Capital Inc., unpub.
Hydrogeological Studies at Botany Cemetery
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Dent, B.B., 1995. Hydrogeological Studies at Botany Cemetery, New South Wales. M.Sc. Proj. Rept., Univ. of Tech., Sydney, unpub.
Australian Cemeteries & Crematoria Association (ACCA), 1997. Cremation in Australia
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 1996. Projections of the Populations of Australia, States and Territories, 1995-2051. Report 3222.0, Aust. Govt. Publishing Service, 139p. Australian Cemeteries & Crematoria Association (ACCA), 1997. Cremation in Australia. ACCA News Winter, pp.16-17