Forensic Excavation Technique

Forensic entomologist must not forget that he/she may be included in a global crime scene or cadaver recovery process. Several authors have already described such processes regarding open air cadavers (Catts and Haskell 1990; Byrd and Castner (2001); Amendt et al. 2007).

Detection of graves or mass graves can be very complicated and time-consuming, according to the characteristics of the supposed site of the grave (large or not), its location (accessibility for technicians) and time elapsed since burial. All of these parameters have a direct impact on the type of method and material used for detection. Grave site is a very specific environment because the number of victims (one-two to dozens), and the type of evidence (material elements: weapons, bullets, teeth, bones, jewellery, documents, etc.) are dispersed in a three-dimensional death scene. Thus, collection of these different clues has to be performed even more carefully, because of potential loss or missing of evidences and damages to bones or elements caused by the exhumation techniques (shovel, bulldozer, etc.). Knowledge of such techniques, rather closer to archaeology than the forensic field, is mandatory. In fact, such process requires a mix of archaeology, anthropology and forensic techniques. Some of the different location techniques are listed below. If some of them are very sophisticated and are used with parsimony, other, more basic ones, can be useful for forensic entomologists for common cases dealing with buried remains.

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