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Controlled GPR Grave Research: Comparison of Reflection Profiles Between 500 and 250 MHz antennae

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International Volume: 209 Dated: 2011 Pages: 64-69
Date Published
6 pages

Since ground-penetrating radar (GPR) has become a popular search option for clandestine graves and controlled research is essential to determine the numerous variables that affect grave detection, the current study compared GPR reflection profiles of a controlled grave containing a large pig carcass and a blank control grave at 6 months interment in a Spodosol, which is a common soil type in Florida.


Data collection was performed in perpendicular orientations over the graves, using both 500 and 250 MHz antennae. Since reflection profiles are used to make initial in-field assessments during a forensic search, it is important for controlled research to evaluate this imagery option. Overall, findings indicate it was possible to detect the grave containing a pig carcass at 6 months interment that was buried in a Spodosol, using both the 500 and the 250 MHz antennae. Although the 500 MHz antenna provided more detail within the grave containing a pig carcass, including detecting a soil disturbance and the pig carcass, the 250 MHz antenna also provided excellent imagery. Either antenna would provide optimal results for the type of soil that was sampled. Furthermore, it may be possible to locate actual forensic graves in this soil type when no response from the body is noted, as there may be a discernable response from the disturbed soil within the grave shaft and a noticeable disruption of the spodic horizon. Finally, survey orientation may also affect detection. Since data collection performed in two perpendicular directions detected the pig carcass and the grave floor of the control grave, data collection for an actual search involving a body interred for a long postmortem interval should be performed in both directions when time permits. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2011