Sunday, March 7, 2010

Swainsboro, GA

Tonight I am in Swainsboro, Georgia. In order to get to Swainsboro I had to drive a very long way on a very narrow road. It was dark on that narrow road and occasionally I got a waft of cow, so I am assuming that I am in the heart of Georgia farm country. At some point I went through a few very small towns and then I arrived in Swainsboro.

This is actually a very charming town (that's right, I used the term charming). My first encounter of with the town involved circumnavigating a little town square that has a fountain in the middle of it. Nice! Then I found my hotel... It is okay, pretty typical small town hotel, not the worst I have called my home. Really the only point where Swainsboro comes up short in my estimation is in its restaurant scene.

After checking into my room I went in search of dinner. Now, I know looking for dinner in a southern town after 8 pm on a Sunday is a little presumptuous of me. But, after I saw the beautiful town square I had high hopes. These hopes were dashed to the ground after I took myself on a short tour of the town. I passed three (!) Chinese restaurants, at least two fast food fried chicken franchises, a Waffle House, a Huddle House, two Subways, and several burger places. Absolutely no local restaurants, unless you count Chinese (which I do not count in any small town). Can I ask why any small town would have so many gross looking Chinese super buffets? Could they possibly be any good? So, I did what any self respecting resident of a small town would do... I went to Wal-Mart (otherwise known as "the great satan") and got myself a frozen dinner and some fresh fruit. Now I am sitting on my bed eating the lasagna watching the Academy Awards.

Why am I in Swainsboro, you might ask? Well, I am here to do a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of a cemetery out here. It is common in older cemeteries to have many unmarked graves. Often people with little money or African Americans, were buried with wooden or ephemeral markers. Sometimes people just moved headstones because they were in the way of the lawn mower. Anyway, for various reasons people need to know where other people are buried. They typically do not want to dig people up. So they hire someone like me. It is extremely rewarding to help local communities manage their resources (such as I am doing tomorrow). Also, old cemeteries are interesting. People have interesting old fashioned names and creative epitaphs.

GPR works by sending electromagnetic energy into the ground, which reflect off of changes in the physical and chemical properties beneath the ground. The reflected energy is received and the strength of the reflected energy is recorded along with the time elapsed. Because graves often have different physical and chemical properties than the surrounding ground they can be visible using GPR. Other stuff can be seen using GPR too. Such as architecture, old roads, and prehistoric and historic trash piles (we call them middens). Here is a website developed by my graduate advisor that goes into more detail.

Picture of me collecting some GPR data, in Ecuador, not Georgia. Pictures of GPR data to come...

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