Fieldwork at Asper’s Cemetery, Day 1

On Tuesday, my Historical Archaeology class returned to Asper’s Cemetery in Northern York County for a few days of fieldwork. Long-time readers of this blog will remember reports of our work at this cemetery for Service Day 2011 and Service Day 2012, as well as our fieldwork at the nearby Stouffer Farm. A collaborative project between the Department of History and the Oakes Museum, we have sought to document this little Bermudian Brethren community and take some steps to preserving the graveyard dating between 1771 and 1831.

The cemetery is in bad condition. Largely neglected; partly bulldozed; head stones overturned, broken, or missing; missing stones; overgrown; groundhog holes everywhere. We have suspected that the locations of the headstones today do not mark the extent or arrangement of tombstones in the past.

This year, we introduced a new tool for documenting the subsurface remains: geophysics! Our particular device, a MALA Ground-Penetrating Radar Unit, transmits electromagnetic (radar) signals into the ground and records the return signal. Running the GPR unit at set intervals maps the subsurface topography of the site and locates features, burials, walls etc…

Our first day of fieldwork returned encouraging results and suggested that the cemetery may have extended at least 5 meters beyond where the stones stop.

Some of the photos below document our first days of work at Asper’s Cemetery.


Two of the head stones marking the location of burials of Philipea and John Penfz.

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Ken Mark, of the Oakes Museum of Natural History, and History major Megan Piette, set up a grid using transit and stadia rod. The cemetery lies to the left, overgrown with weeds.

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History majors David Crout and Tyler Stone run a transect with the GPR Unit

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Students Kaylee Schofield (English), Tyler Stone (History), and Megan Steves (Art History) using the GPR over an area of suspected burials.

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Ken Mark of Oakes Museum fame moves the GPR sled. Note the orange flags that mark the location of sub-surface anomalies.

Asper's cemetery6

Several of these anomalies patterned consistently as straight lines. Our current hypothesis is that these lines mark another row of burials, now without headstones. I wondered aloud how much space would be required for burials. Megan Steves (Art History), Kaylee Schofield (English), David Crout (History), and Tyler Stone (History) volunteered as models, while Kristen College (Humanities), Shane Reed (History), and Ken Mark (Oakes Museum) looked on.

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Our work continues today at the nearby Stouffer Farm. Abraham Stouffer, who is buried at Asper’s Cemetery, built the farm in the 1700s.

We will try to keep you updated on the fieldwork activities as they continue over the next week.

4 thoughts on “Fieldwork at Asper’s Cemetery, Day 1

  1. On Sunday, September 29th, neighbor Bruce Sheaffer was kind enough to clear the grave stones of weeds. Thank you, Bruce! The work that the college is doing is critical to maintaining the legacy of the Bermudian Church of the Brethren. In the 1700’s Brethren traveled to William Penn’s Pennsylvania to escape persecution in Europe for their religious beliefs. This small cemetery is a testament to that early community.

  2. Pingback: Archaeology 2013: Asper’s Cemetery | History on the Bridge

  3. Pingback: Service Day 2014 at Asper Burial Ground | History on the Bridge

  4. Pingback: Service Day at the Little Bermudian Cemetery | History on the Bridge

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