Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) data is generated by the reflection of pulses of energy transmitted into the ground. The energy bounces off the buried features, and is detected with a receiving antenna. Each below-ground feature reflects this energy in its own unique way. Objects, and soils of different densities will generate detectable signals. By providing the user with the ability to “see” below the surface without disturbing anything, GPR is the ideal tool for locating sensitive features such as graves. 

Forensic geophysical surveys employing the use of shallow ground radar imaging technology have been utilized world wide for the detection of archaeological forensic targets for nearly 20 years . Forensic geophysical surveys can locate burial sites from ancient times up to recent burials based upon the disturbance of the ground conditions. It also can be useful also to sort out the location of empty but pre-sold burial sites through the use of GPR imagery techniques. Interpretation is conducted mainly in ‘live-time’ by a geophysicist or forensic archaeologist with interim reports presented ‘live-time’ as well as full reports depending upon the cemetery’s requirements.

GPS methods are non-destructive, preserving the cemetery and the graves for future generations.

Production rates will vary according to both ground and weather conditions but under normal conditions it is possible that up to 100 graves may be examined per day. 

Though GPR does not currently reveal details such as skeletons or coffins, it does show excavation features. In some cases,  the actual shafts of the burial were detected, while in other cases, only the near-surface soil truncation was detected.  By analyzing the slice-maps, it is possible to determine that some of the burials were interred on the east side of their headstone, while others were interred on the west side.  Some caskets were wooden with no metal, some were lead-lined, and others contained significant metal.  Furthermore, GPR was able to detect sometimes only slight void spaces caused by partial collapse of the coffin.

Additional Information and examples of use:

Category: Locating Cemeteries and Gravesites
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