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A review of intrusive search methods and excavation techniques for clandestine grave site recovery in forensic archaeology

Colledge, Danielle (2020) A review of intrusive search methods and excavation techniques for clandestine grave site recovery in forensic archaeology. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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Archaeological intrusive search and excavation methods have been widely used in the recovery of human remains and associated evidence from clandestine graves. This is due to the realisation that employing archaeological methods has increased evidence recovery rates and reduced the risk of damaging evidence. It is imperative to the forensic investigation that appropriate archaeological methods are employed as maximum evidence recovery with minimal damage is required. Despite the critical role adequate search and excavation techniques play, there is limited literature available which analyses and compares the effectiveness and suitability of common intrusive search methods and excavation techniques in forensic archaeology. Probe searches, shovel testing, and utilising heavy equipment are types of intrusive search methods used to locate potential clandestine graves. Arbitrary Level Excavation (ALE), Stratigraphic Excavation (SE), and a combined ALE/SE excavation approach are excavation methods advocated by numerous authors to recover buried remains. This dissertation aims to review current literature regarding these intrusive search methods and excavation techniques used in the recovery of remains from clandestine grave sites. This review found that probe searches have proven to be successful to locate a potential grave site and to outline the perimeter of the grave. In terms of excavation techniques, it appears that SE has higher evidence recovery rates when compared to ALE, but no such comparisons can be made for the combined approach due a to lack of scientific research. It is clear throughout this review that there is a lack of standardisation and scientific research regarding the practicality and utility of intrusive search methods and excavation techniques. Therefore, several recommendations for future research are proposed to address these gaps identified in the literature.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Medical, Molecular and Forensic Sciences
Supervisor(s): Chapman, Brendan
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