The oldest public cemetery in Tampa is going digital

Ground-penetrating radar will find hidden graves
Posted at 5:57 PM, Mar 24, 2017

There are some plots of land in Tampa's oldest public burial site that would appear to be vacant, but historians suspect there are many unmarked graves at Oaklawn Cemetery.

Friday, USF researchers began an effort to create a digital map of the cemetery, that shows what's both above the ground surface and below it.

City of Tampa funds are going to the Florida Public Archeology Network, a USF institution, to use scientific tools like 'ground-penetrating radar' (GPR) to see what's below the surface. There's no way to know for sure what's in the ground unless the ground is dug up, but the radar, along with scientific mapping techniques, should help determine spots that are likely graves. City leaders are working to maintain, document and restore the property, with the possibility of seeking a national historic landmark designation.  

GPR works began Friday. After a few weeks of collecting information, the researchers will spend several months using it to create the database.

It's unclear how many graves may be hidden below the surface. Dr. Jeff Moates of USF's Department of Anthropology tells ABC Action News estimates there are "dozens."

The graves will not be disturbed during the process and there are no intentions to dig up the remains, merely to identify their locations.

Oaklawn Cemetery is located at 606 E. Harrison St, Tampa, FL 33602.