28 March 2011

Area Event: Pioneer Cemetery's Lost Graves

Results of Pioneer Cemetery’s Lost Graves
Survey to be Presented Thursday, April 28

The question of how many burials are actually located at the San Fernando Valley Pioneer Memorial Cemetery in Sylmar will be discussed on Thursday, April 28 at 7 p.m. at the Andres Pico Adobe when archaeologist Brian Damiata presents findings from his extensive archaeo-geophysical investigation. Unconfirmed cemetery records indicate more than 600 people could be buried at the historic site, which is owned and operated by the San Fernando Valley Historical Society (SFVHS).

Dr. Damiata, a Cotsen Fellow at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, has extensive experience in ground-based geophysical methods to locate unmarked burials and clandestine graves. In the last few years, he has completed similar surveys at various family, pioneer and Native American cemeteries throughout the United States. Internationally, other recent projects have taken him to China, Greece, Greenland, Guatemala, Iceland, and Turkey.

The archaeo-geophysical survey he conducted at Pioneer Cemetery involved land surveying of all visible features within the boundaries of the cemetery using a Global Positioning System (GPS) in conjunction with a robotic total-field station. Geophysical surveys that were conducted included Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR), electrical resistivity, and magnetic methods. Most of the accessible areas of the cemetery were surveyed. Additional historical research has revealed further details about some of the burials.

A portion of the $20,000 survey was funded by a $5,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation-Los Angeles County Fund, plus generous contributions by $1,000 angel donors, the “Voices of Pioneer Cemetery: Flashlight Ghost Tour,” engraved brick sales, yard sales, bottle/can recycling, and cash donations.

“Dr. Damiata’s presentation will be an exciting new chapter in the history of Pioneer Cemetery,” notes Jacky Walker, co-chair of the SFVHS Pioneer Cemetery Committee. “Be sure to arrive early for a good seat, and allow time to ask questions and enjoy refreshments.”

For additional information, please contact the San Fernando Valley Historical Society at 818-365-7810, or visit the Society’s Web site at http://www.sfvhs.com.

The adobe is located in Andres Pico Adobe Park, 10940 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills (across from the Mission Hills Post Office at Brand Boulevard).

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