Tag: Locating Unmarked Graves

Some 872 probable human remains have been discovered in the African American section of Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery. Information about upcoming preservation efforts are to be provided Saturday during a Juneteenth program sponsored by the Historic Oakland Foundation.

Source: Oakland Cemetery contains some 872 remains in African American section – SaportaReport

Oakland Cemetery has discovered more than 800 unmarked graves in the African-American section of the historic burial ground. Preparing for its next phase of restoration, the Historic Oakland Foundation (HOF) recently conducted a geophysical survey of the African-American section in the cemetery and discovered some 872 probable grave sites. HOF’s Preservation, Restoration, and Operations (PRO) …

Source: More than 800 unmarked African-American graves found at Oakland Cemetery – Atlanta INtown Paper

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…


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.

RTC funds imaging project to locate unmarked graves in Anderson Cemetery

Recently, Ringgold Telephone Company (RTC) funded a project to locate over 100 unmarked graves within the boundaries of the historic Nathan Anderson Cemetery in downtown Ringgold. Rumors have long circled the old cemetery, offering various accounts of unmarked burial sites belonging to early settlers—Euro-Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans.

Bigman Geophysical was tasked with the detailed process of locating these graves through non-invasive ground penetration radar (GPR). Dr. Bigman used geophysical imaging (tomography) to locate changes or disruptions in the subsurface. Recently, this same technology was used to discover what historians believe to be an ancient pagan ritual site near Stonehenge in southern England. Nearly 100 stones–thought to be over 4,500 years old–were discovered without disturbance of the landscape. Through a similar technique and with his state of the art equipment, Bigman was able to locate over 100 significant disruptions in the subsurface of Nathan Anderson Cemetery. Because of the pattern, spacing, and regularity of the findings, he was able to determine that the vast majority of the findings are, in fact, unmarked graves.

Daniel Bigman, owner of the surveying company, is very passionate about his work. “Each interred individual deserves to have his or her place in Georgia’s history marked in perpetuity,” Bigman states.

Bigman said he found the social component of Nathan Anderson Cemetery most exciting. “What I find so fascinating is people fulfilling a variety of roles in society were buried together. A cemetery is often a reflection of society. The way you are treated in death often reflects how you were treated in life.”

When asked about why this project is important, Bigman responded, “Cemeteries are places of historical significance. They contain the biological and material documentation of our shared past. The likelihood that there are many people with unmarked burials here from various cultural and historic backgrounds makes this place particularly special. It points to the complex history of Georgia and the Southeast. Which is why surveying the Anderson Cemetery was so important to me.”

Read the original article here.