Methodology

Preliminary research was carried out to investigate sites containing known examples of cadaver stones in Leinster and Munster. This required the collection of historical maps and documents relating to the selected sites and involved the creation of a general distribution map using commercial GIS software packages such as ArcGIS and its open source alternative, QGIS. Each site selected for recording was then assessed and surveyed and GPS coordinates taken stone relevant to the research project.  This ensure that a stringent record is being created, that can be used for future research. Standardised archaeological surveying methods will allow for reliable inter-/intra-site comparisons, while the use of conventional GIS software packages will ensure the interoperability of the data across different operating systems.

After a detailed map was created of the sites, the process of recording the stones details (including dimensions, condition, illustration, material, location, inscriptions) was undertaken. The recording of commemorative stones is considered to be an integral part of the conservation process when recording and documenting historical graveyards. As such, rigorous policies and procedures (based on international guidelines formulated and adopted by conservation agencies) have been published by The Heritage Council of Ireland that highlight best practice for the care of these sites. These guidelines (in particular those relating to the non-invasive recording of graveyard memorials) will be applied to each site selected for recording and can be accessed via The Heritage Council’s website.

Non-invasive 3D imaging techniques such as photogrammetry were then be applied to the monuments to capture minute surface details not visible under traditional empirical assessment. While laser scanning is the preferred method for recording monuments of this type, its success in complex topographical environments (Kraus 2000), its role in international projects (i.e. breakthrough in research pertaining to the Terracotta Army in china – reference), combined with recently assessed and recorded high quality of data output means these methods must also be assessed in the field to establish the viability of photogrammetry in recording heritage sites within an Irish context. This will then allow for careful consideration of cost effective strategies for implementing photogrammetry at local government level.  Tools utilised in this study range from standardised site recording tools to software packages for data visualisation.

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