Danielle Santos April 2, 2014 ANTH485 Research Review: The Contribution of Forensic Archaeology to Homicide Investigations In the United States forensic archaeology is not fully acknowledged for its potential application in homicide investigations. Although forensic archaeology is acknowledged as its own discipline in the U.K., the U.S. has placed forensic archaeology as a sub-discipline under forensic anthropology. Undeniably its used for crimes against humanity cases and in forensic cases across the world. Unfortunately, often time’s archaeologists and forensic anthropologists are not trained and are unfamiliar to criminalist protocols, processing and chain of custody. Most archaeologists are also unaware of potential health risks associated with handling human remains. However, law enforcement does recognize that archaeology can provide an array of opportunities in medicolegal significance. Information on forensics applied to archaeology is limited as seen in the lack of literature since its development in the 1990’s, but the significance of the methodology is not limited as demonstrated in cases involving forensic archaeologists and anthropologists and through its practice elsewhere (UK, crimes against humanity cases). The merit acknowledged as early as the mid 1970’s. Forensic archaeology uses traditional archaeological skills and employs these skills to locate evidence for law enforcement and other agencies. A forensic archaeologist is trained in three areas: assisting law enforcement in locating remains, excavation/ recovery of remains and recording through documentation. To achieve collecting valuable evidence specialists must be flexible in applying unique requirements pending what the case needs. Types of evidence associated with crimes include: human remains, personal effects, weapons, etc.. Graves can provide cause of death, manner of death and how interment (burial) was accomplished. The forensic archaeologist studies the evidence in context of the site and can predict based on survival and patterns of evidence remaining. Both Dupras and Schultz in there article The Contribution of Forensic Archaeology to Homicide Investigations acknowledge the distinction of the two fields of forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology. Both authors have a background in forensic biological anthropology and archaeology. Schults and Dupras’s discuss the significant importance and benefits of anthropologists cross trained in ‘proper’ archaeological methods for Homicide investigations. Within the article the primary viewpoints derive from U.S. literature on research done by Forensic Anthropologists. Many specialists are needed in effectively collecting and processing evidence in forensic cases. As noted within the article Forensic Archaeologists are often consulted with by law enforcements for expert witness testimony pertaining to crime scene investigations relying heavily on the trained ability of documentation. The article discusses the history of the field and distinguishes the differences between forensic archaeology vs. anthropology. They continue to acknowledge that often time’s forensic anthropologists are untrained in performing archaeological techniques as illustrated in a Table 1 p.401. They also distinguish the differences in the modern application of non-forensic archaeology. Crist is quoted to define Forensic archaeology as- “the application of archaeological theories and recordation and recovery methods to processing of criminal scenes.” (2001) The authors refer to using ‘proper’ application of archaeological methods yet do not define what these methods are, they do give an example of how this applies to taphonomy, but don’t seem to illustrate or outline what ‘proper’ application of forensic archaeology is. This concept of ‘proper’ forensic archaeology becomes even more convoluted when you think back to the idea that each case needs be handled through site specific parameters. The ‘proper’ methods are assumed under the discretion of the professional forensic archaeologist. Without ‘proper’ methods damage to remains is most likely guaranteed as proper methods are imperative in mitigating damages. The article also explains the notorious two categories of methods: intrusive and non-intrusive shown in Table 2 p. 406. These are the types of search methods used to gather material evidence. This along with meticulous documentation methodology allows for the forensic archaeologist to create detailed reports that can be used if expert witness testimony in court when necessary for a case. Fundamentally the contributions of documentation and delineation of context are what signify the importance of the role of a forensic anthropologist from other (sub)/disciplines. Reliable inferences on human behavior can result from reconstructing what took place at the scene. However, using intrusive methods or from other sources of disturbance can alter the scene disassociating the context. The disassociation of intrusive methods for future arguments in court relies heavily on proper methods illustrated in the documentation and illustrates how valuable there assistance is at the planning phase and field search. Advocating the use of forensic archaeology uses for criminal justice cases the US military also recognizes the importance and is noted as the largest employer in the United States of forensic archaeologist/ anthropologists. Outside of the US the assistance is valuable in the evidential regime central to convictions in human rights violations. The issues not acknowledged in this article are of its the ethical use, in regards to cultural sensitivity within human rights cases and regarding the cost benefit analysis and time needed for local applications. Although useful and effective when conducted properly forensic archaeological investigations are timely. Noted from personal experience and through literature, law enforcement and international cases enforce time sensitive parameters which often do not permit the use of ‘proper’ methods. This time cap arguably hinders the ability of these professionals to carry out non-biased/ objective results that would otherwise derive from ‘proper’ methodology.