Radar scan at forgotten church finds evidence of cemeteries

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Apr 4, 2018 6:57 PM

Dickinson College students in an environmental geophysics class visited Mount Tabor Cemetery in Mount Holly Springs. They used ground penetrating radar to image the subsurface around the cemetery to look for unmarked grave sites. (Photo: Heather Shelley)

(Harrisburg) -- A radar scan on the grounds of a forgotten midstate church has found evidence of two cemeteries. 

The Mount Tabor AME Church in Mount Holly Springs, Cumberland County served an African-American community for about a century before falling into disrepair over the last several decades. 

Now community non profits are trying to save it, with a little technological help.

Dickinson College professor Jorden Hayes' environmental geophysics class used ground-penetrating radar to survey two possible burial sites--one with a few grave markers, the other had been overgrown with weeds. 

The radar device looks something like a lawnmower and was pushed across the grounds to collect images from below. 

Hayes says they found key signatures that the unmarked lot is a final resting place for the church's parishioners. 

"One of theose signatures that we're looking for in the image--we're not seeing anything like persons or bones--but what we rather see are anomalies; departures from what we expect the normal environment to look like," Hayes said. 

Hayes says students will spend the next several weeks analyzing the data collected. 

"What we actually collected was a grid of 2D profiles that are ultimately going to be combined together to give a three-dimensional perspective of the subsurface," she said.  

They are likely to return to the church for further investigation. 

To see video from the scan, click here

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