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The search for unmarked African-American graves at Boone Cemetery

Researchers are using ground-penetrating radar to search for the unmarked graves of 30-40 African-Americans at Boone Cemetery in Iowa.

Under the direction of Keith C. Seramur, an adjunct assistant research associate in the Department of Geology, and Cowan, students used the equipment to measure electrical resistance between two electrode probes every two feet along a 100-by-100 foot grid. Variances in the electric current can indicate a disturbed soil below the surface and confirm the location of potential unmarked graves identified by the earlier GPR survey.

This initial effort only completed a portion of the grid so additional surveys will be conducted in the future.

While an exact number of gravesites has yet to be determined, historical records indicate that between 30-40 African-Americans died in Watauga County when the cemetery was in use.

“Our work at the Boone cemetery is providing geology students hands on experience with geophysical equipment,” Seramur said. “We also hope to contribute to the preservation of part of Boone’s history and respect for those buried in these unmarked graves by completing this study.”

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