Ground Penetrating Radar Survey of a Cemetery: Interpretation

Andy Bobyarchick, UNC Charlotte

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This activity is an interpretation of a ground penetrating radar (GPR) data set collected from a 19th century slave cemetery in North Carolina.

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This activity is appropriate for an applied geophysics or geoforensics course for geology, earth sciences, and archaeology majors. It can also be integrated with a graduate class in those areas or as a data collection class to also include civil and environmental engineering students.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Understand the basic concepts of radar and fundamentals of basic software processing to get the data to an interpretable stage.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity can be used as a separate lab or extended lab project, or as the final part of a data collection, processing, and interpretation extended project. As such it could occupy most of a semester.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Objective: Use GPR as part of a geoforensic investigation to locate graves in an abandoned and/or unmarked cemetery.
Goals: Understand the social/anthropological application of geophysics; characterize GPR signature of burials vs. other anomalies; point vs. planar radar signatures; signal processing and analysis.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Derive a conclusion from remote data collection and inference. Distinguish significant as opposed to extraneous signals in geophysics. Relate data analysis to collection and interpretation.

Other skills goals for this activity

Group projects are possible if the activity is integrated with data collection and processing.

Description and Teaching Materials

The investigation document, supporting data, and reference poster are in links below.

Student Handout for GPR Investigation of a Cemetery (Acrobat (PDF) 5.9MB Jul24 12)
GPR Investigation of a Cemetery Reference Poster (Acrobat (PDF) 117.2MB Jul24 12)

Teaching Notes and Tips


The activity includes a number of goals to be addressed by the student in a report. As an interpretation, some of the conclusions are subjective.

References and Resources

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