Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Next generation forensic taphonomy: Automation for experimental, field-based research.

Finaughty, D.A., Pead, J., Spies, M.J., Gibbon, V.E. (2023) Next generation forensic taphonomy: Automation for experimental, field-based research. Forensic Science International, 345 . Article Number 111616. ISSN 0379-0738. (doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2023.111616) (KAR id:100622)


Determining the post-mortem interval (PMI) is often a critical goal in forensic casework. Consequently, the discipline of forensic taphonomy has involved considerable research efforts towards achieving this goal, with substantial strides made in the past 40 years. Importantly, quantification of decompositional data (and the models derived from them) and standardisation in experimental protocols are being increasingly recognised as key components of this drive. However, despite the discipline's best efforts, significant challenges remain. Still lacking are standardisation of many core components of experimental design, forensic realism in experimental design, true quantitative measures of the progression of decay, and high-resolution data. Without these critical elements, large-scale, synthesised multi-biogeographically representative datasets - necessary for building comprehensive models of decay to precisely estimate PMI - remain elusive. To address these limitations, we propose the automation of taphonomic data collection. We present the world's first reported fully automated, remotely operable forensic taphonomic data collection system, inclusive of technical design details. Through laboratory testing and field deployments, the apparatus substantially reduced the cost of actualistic (field-based) forensic taphonomic data collection, improved data resolution, and provided for more forensically realistic experimental deployments and simultaneous multi-biogeographic experiments. We argue that this device represents a quantum leap in experimental methodology in this field, paving the way for the next generation of forensic taphonomic research and, we hope, attainment of the elusive goal of precise estimation of PMI. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.]

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2023.111616
Uncontrolled keywords: Automation, Methodology, Decomposition, Post-mortem interval, South Africa, Experimental design, Forensic taphonomy
Subjects: Q Science > QD Chemistry
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Chemistry and Forensics
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2023 12:59 UTC
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2023 08:01 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.