Using Lichenometry, Dendrochronology, and Historical Data to Establish the Relative Age of an Abandoned Cemetery in Northern Arkansas

  • Brandy Garrett Kluthe Department of Biology, Saint Peter’s University, Jersey City.
  • Margaret Guiccioni Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
  • Steven L. Stephenson Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Keywords: Lichenometry, Folklore, Dating, Cemetery, Tree-ring


Folklore surrounding an abandoned cemetery located in Johnson County, Arkansas (a part of the Louisiana Purchase) suggested that it was used by early settlers. Historical records were combined with several dating techniques to determine the approximate time periods that Cedar Grove Cemetery was established and abandoned. Cores extracted from trees located adjacent to or on graves provided evidence that the cemetery was abandoned in the 1920s. These results coincide with the last burial event in 1922. The approximate age of undated gravesites was determined using lichenometry. A lichen growth rate of 0.0685 cm/year was determined for lichens present on two gravestones with known dates. This growth rate was then applied to the undated graves to establish their approximate ages. Death dates from historical records of individuals buried in the cemetery matched the dates established by the lichen growth rate. Our results show that many of the unmarked graves date prior to the first documented private ownership of the land. The results of this study support local folklore passed down over several generations about the origin of the cemetery.

Author Biographies

Brandy Garrett Kluthe, Department of Biology, Saint Peter’s University, Jersey City.

Brandy Garrett Kluthe is an ecology professor at Saint Peter's University in Jersey City, NJ. Her research interests include human-environment interactions, forest ecology, introduced species, and mycorrhizal fungi.

Margaret Guiccioni, Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Dr. Guccione, emeritus faculty at University of Arkansas, studies stream response to internal and external variables in alluvial valleys. Nearly all of her research has been collaborative with archeologists.

Steven L. Stephenson, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Dr. Stephenson is a research professor at the University of Arkansas.  His research has focused on forest ecology and myxomycetes ecology with a focus on classification and distribution. He has conducted research across the globe.


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How to Cite
Garrett Kluthe, B., Guiccioni, M., & Stephenson, S. L. (2018). Using Lichenometry, Dendrochronology, and Historical Data to Establish the Relative Age of an Abandoned Cemetery in Northern Arkansas. Ethnobiology Letters, 9(2), 253-262.
Data, Methods & Taxonomies