Tag: Cadaver Dogs

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How do scent smelling dogs measure up to high tech imaging equipment when searching for 200 year old burials? Very well, actually! On January 25, 2016 we followed up a cadaver dog search with a GPR survey of Kettle Creek Battlefield located in Washington, GA. This was the site of a quick, but brutal Revolutionary War battle that took the lives of approximately 80 British and 7 or 8 American soldiers. One idea was that the British were buried in a mass grave, possibly on the southern side of War Hill (the location of the most intense fighting). The cadaver dogs located an area with human remains scent and this was one of the targets that we investigated with GPR. The GPR data, however, indicates that there may only be a single clandestine grave at this spot. There is no indication of a large pit.
During the first phase of this investigation, the dogs also located numerous targets in the battlefield itself. The GPR data also support most of these as probable graves. In every case where a GPR reflection indicative of a possible grave was recorded, the location was slightly uphill from the where the dogs hinted. This is expected since the decomposing residue will travel through the subsurface after the burial is interred.

The power of the Kettle Creek Battlefield study is the high correlation of Human Remains Detection dog targets with GPR reflections of probable burials. This method allowed the project to cover a large area quickly with the dogs from K9 Search & Rescue Specialists, Inc. to identify possible targets, and then evaluate those targets with non-invasive subsurface imaging. The small GPR reflection on the southern side of War Hill coupled with the 6 targets identified in the battlefield (5 supported by the GPR) also might indicate that no mass grave exists. The only way to figure this out would be a full coverage investigation with the dogs, geophysics, and some minimal testing. Thank you to the Kettle Creek Battlefield Association for supporting the project and preserving public history. Stay tuned…

85%

Percentage of targets located by HRD dogs that were also located with GPR

On December 15th, 2015 Bigman Geophysical was hired to conduct a search for an historic cemetery developed immediately after the Revolutionary War at the site of Kettle Creek Battlefield. We worked with Trace Sargent and her expert dog search team from K9 Search & Rescue Specialists, Inc. This cemetery had no remaining grave markers and could be anywhere on the hill adjacent to the vicious battle of Kettle Creek. This cemetery was associated with a church, which is also no longer standing. What to do, what to do? We hired the dogs to rapidly search the hill and pinpoint areas with human remains scent. These dogs can pick up the sent of decomposed bodies that were buried centuries earlier, and since decomposing bodies of any species contains a unique set of compounds, these dogs can distinguish between humans and other animals. All three dogs pinpointed the same location for the possible cemetery and alerted the expert dog handler within three feet of each other. WOW! We were all super impressed. Now we will be able to go in like a surgeon and just pinpoint targets to investigate with other methods such as ground penetrating radar (GPR). Before we left the area, the dogs picked up on another possible cemetery on the same hill. This one might be a family cemetery related to an old farmstead.

 

After this success, we moved over War Hill where most of the battle took place. The dogs again located an area that might contain human remains. This time however, the remains might be those of fallen Revolutionary War soldiers. The dogs were again alerted within a few feet of each other. This project is a great one that shows the usefulness of human remains detection dogs when trying to cover a large area. Projects can begin with these types of rapid, large-scale techniques and then refine to higher resolution, but more time consuming methods of grave detection.