Actual Status (with a lucky meeting…)

A few weeks ago I started the first deep survey of this exceptional burial ground, having the chance of finding there a guy who was cleaning up volountarily the “jungle” that keeps growing and literally swallowing the monuments, graves and, with them, the centuries of history that are trying desperately to communicate with us. I have to say that many of the graves have already been “eaten” by the vegetation, and it’s a really hard work to figure out where they were placed in the cemetery and which pieces of stones belong to them if still readable.
Below I posted a few images of the actual state “before and after”. My good fellow Francesco and his friend Roberto are having hard times fighting the wild Nature and they should be thanked for their effort.

The clean-up allowed to make a much deeper survey and moreover is allowing us to find lost graves, pieces of marble stone with inscriptions and, sometimes, traces of previous burials like it happened today. The survey had to be prepared accurately by cross-checking documents and sources and compiling a most complete as possible list of potential individuals buried here.

First Phase: The Master List

I began by writing down on Microsoft® Excel each individual appearing on the book “The inscriptions in the old British Cemetery of Leghorn” (cfr. this post) along with all available data (age, birth and death places, relatives, etc…), then I added (cross-checking for double entries) all the people appearing in the following burial registers: Chapel Register #1 (1707-1783), Chapel Register #2 (1784-1824), GL Ms20990 (1825-1851), GL Ms11211 (1832-1837), the New English Cemetery burial list and finally some acts and notes from the acatholic registers  at the Historical Archive of the City of Livorno (ASCLi).

All these sources produced a final “Master List” of about 1400 people, from 1646 to 1850 of which you can see a snapshot here below. I had to add some color-coding to understand it better and some columns especially for the on-field survey.

The Master List on Excel

Second Phase: On-Site Survey and Organization

Equipped with these instruments we started a grave-by-grave check marking on the Master List each individual found, the status of the grave, any defect and readability problem. I virtually divided the burial ground in 6 main zones and each grave was associated to a zone and coded with a reference number (like A1.7; C2.43, etc.).

View from satellite - Zones

This phase evidenced, apart from the expected irregularities, some unexpected results:

of about 1300 theorical individuals, of which about 490 graves found in the book (corresponding to about 530 individuals), I could find, for now, the graves of about 400 people, still missing about 150 people from the book and 900 total. But this is not all: I found a few graves that DO NOT appear in the book, meaning that the 1906 survey forgot about them!

Other irregularities are, for example,  graves for which there’s no corresponding burial act; graves that are luckily almost intact but there’s no trace of inscription whatsoever, graves that happened to be totally broken and later on someone rebuilt the inscription by putting together pieces of DIFFERENT inscriptions, graves that totally miss the marble tombstone, etc…

The actual situation imposed to find another tool to help in identifying the graves and fragments. I digitised the 1906 book about the inscriptions, applied an OCR treatment so that the computer could recognize the text, and then added to each person in the excel master list, his/her inscription that can now be searched for words. This allows to match almost any broken inscription by just having few letters!

Now it’s the moment for a second pass on each grave to check any mistake on my part or any burial that was not visible the first time, or any piece of marble containing inscriptions that seemed unusable at the beginning of the project.

Third Phase: Statistical Analysis

Excel is filled with lots of analysis tools and methods so I began using some of them on the set of data from the Master List. Analysis is still in progress as the survey continues and as information is collected, so I cannot post any definitive result yet. Below you can have a glance at a screenshot of the statistical graphs for the Old English Cemetery of Livorno:

Some statistical graphs produced with the Master List

Fourth Phase: Mapping the Cemetery

During the other phases we also thought of mapping the cemetery. We asked for an advice of a friend, a wikipedia contributor and Civil Engineering student who decided right away to help us on the field and with his knowledge of the Autodesk AutoCAD® software.

1824 map with actual digital map and measures on Autodesk Autocad®

Hand map of A1 section with coded graves

I bought a laser measuring equipment and we began with the perimeter which is quite irregular. We also compared satellite digital pictures with modern topographical images and a set of cadastre maps from 1824 and we came up with a first outline map of the outer walls and the modifications occurred between 1824 and now.

Next sub-phase consists in establishing a set of two or more well visible fixed points for each one of the six zones. Each grave has to be examined to decide which reference surface is to be used and from which angles measures will be taken. This kind of measurement will allow us, with the “trilateration” method, to have an exact point for each grave that can be drawn on the computer. From this point, with other measurements on the grave, it is possible to draw a planar view of the single grave and so on for the whole cemetery area.

Fifth Phase: Further analysis, one step forward

To complete the analysis we will carry out a study on the disposition of the graves during time. I have to study a way to animate the cemetery map year by year making each grave appear at its right position at the right year. This may allow to see whether there has been any particular pattern in chosing the graves’ placement inside the burial ground. Also a colour coded map with each color associated to a specific time span may allow some more deductions.

Next possible steps:

◊ Restoration of the graves and requalification of the “garden” with informative panels, walking paths, benches for future free or controlled public access.

◊ Publication of the project (hopefully sponsorized by Institutions or Foundations).

◊ 3D model of the cemetery’s outer walls, possibly with the actual status and the 1824 status. (with Google Sketchup 7.1)

◊ 3D model of graves with photorealistic textures. (with Google Sketchup 7.1)

◊ Website of the cemetery with all the findings, data, pictures and location of the graves.

◊ Expositions

◊ Any other ideas !?