NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Thomas Cemetery is the final resting place for several prominent North Little Rock figures dating to the 1870s. A group working to restore the place realized they needed to scan the place.
"We're just looking at radio waves," said T.J. McCollough, an engineer with Morrison and Shipley as he and a partner, Sam Sudbrink, roll a radar scanner with a green computer monitor over resting places Friday morning. "We can tell as we look at the waves and see the differences in the ground."
The partners move deliberately, placing small blue flags over spots where the waves indicate disturbed earth or evidence of newer caskets. Dozens of flags are placed since many markers have been lost to time. Volunteers with the Thomas Cemetery Association scraped together the money to hire the engineers to do some mortal mapping.
"Over time, more than 700 people were buried in this cemetery," said Lisa Winkleman, who heads up the grant writing for the association.
With only a couple dozen tombstones remaining, in order to restore the grounds, they needed to look underground.
"We can't do anything without the scanning," she said. "We want to do some landscaping or water projects, but we just have to know where the bodies are."
McCollough and Sudbrink often get called in to check old homesteads which had private burial sites up on the bluff by the old oak tree. Mapping an actual graveyard doesn't come around a often, so for the most part they haven't faced too many creepy experiences.
"We have found a partial human skull," McCollough said and adding they alerted authorities. "That was the kind of thing to make the hair stand up on the back of your head."
No bones popped up Friday. Instead, they got a sense of what lies six feet under, and a start to someday putting some names back over those remains.
"We do not know who they are but we do hope to raise the funds to mark each spot and put a name on it just so they are recognized," Winkleman said.