Oakland Cemetery is a beautiful historic site located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia. Its mausoleums and structures adorned with gardens and bird sanctuaries provide an enchanting green space where photo shoots, picnics, walks, and other events occur. Visitors come from near and far to enjoy this unique and serine ambiance with a vast history.

But who is buried at Oakland Cemetery? There are a number of famous people buried at Oakland including Ivan Allen, Jr., Joseph M. Brown, Martha Lumpkin Compton, Margaret Mitchell, and more. But what of those who are not famous? Many graves are now unmarked and there are fragmented records of the individuals who lie beneath. So, how do we honor and remember those who lay quietly underground with no marking, no record?


In an attempt to bring to light where and how many individuals might be buried without markers, Bigman Geophysical, LLC was hired by the Historic Oakland Foundation to survey the African American section of the cemetery. During the time spent at Oakland, Bigman Geophysical located 800+ possible unmarked graves using noninvasive geophysical technology known as ground penetrating radar (GPR).


GPR sends electromagnetic pulses into the ground which reflect back to the GPR console when it comes across changes within the subsurface such disturbed soil versus compact soil. Bigman Geophysical flagged these potential unmarked graves and recorded GPS coordinates for them so that the Historic Oakland Foundation can preserve and plan for the future. The final resting places of these people can now remain undisturbed during any refurbishments and they can be honored and remembered as visitors walk through the cemetery.

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

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