Engineers at ICT recently had a chance to help out with a project that was a little outside their area of expertise. This spring, ICT was contacted by a local artist named John Kettman, who was searching for the gravesite of his third great grandmother when he discovered a small local cemetery called the Naramor Cemetery, that had fallen into disrepair. Many of the grave markers were missing or buried under years of weather, making it difficult to locate them all. Kettman approached ICT to see about using ground penetrating radar (GPR) to search the plot. Imad Al-Qadi, director of ICT, welcomed the idea for the research it entailed and for the challenge of using GPR in a novel way.
Jim Meister, senior research engineer at ICT, had to overcome a few obstacles for this idea to be put into action. “Normally all of this equipment is inside of a van,” Meister explained. But a van would destroy the grounds. His solution was to mount the GPR unit and a generator in a hand-pulled cart.
Along with several students from ICT, Jim walked the cart around the grounds and tracked his location with a GPS unit. The idea is that bones are denser than soil, so the radar would give a map of denser areas underground that could correspond to grave sites. Kettman will then be able to use the map to search for grave markers that have been covered by dirt and debris over the years.
This novel use of the technology was a first for ICT. “I’m sure other places have used this technology for this purpose,” Meister explains, “but this is our first crack at it. Normally we use the GPR for looking at highway infrastructure.”
Once the data are cleaned up and connected to Google maps, ICT will deliver the map to Kettman, who may finally be able to locate his distant relative.