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A review of experimental design in forensic taphonomy: moving towards forensic realism

Miles, Kelly L., Finaughty, Devin A., Gibbon, Victoria E. (2020) A review of experimental design in forensic taphonomy: moving towards forensic realism. Forensic Sciences Research, . ISSN 2096-1790. (doi:10.1080/20961790.2020.1792631) (KAR id:82796)

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Forensic taphonomy as a discipline requires standardization to satisfy Daubert criteria for scientific data to be admissible in court. In response, there has been a shift towards quantification of methodology and estimating the post-mortem interval. Despite these advances, there are still biases and limitations within the discipline not explicitly addressed in the early stages of experimental design nor in final published works. In this article, unresolved debates with respect to the conductance and reporting of forensic taphonomic research are reviewed, beginning with the nature of experimental cadavers, human or animal analogues and their body size, and second, the forensic realism of experimental setups, specifically with respect to caging, clothing and number of carcases. Pigs, albeit imperfect, are a good model to gain a general idea of the trends that may be seen in humans in subsequent validation studies in facilities where human donors are available. To date, there is no consensus among taphonomists on the extent of the effect that body mass has on decomposition progression. More research is required with both human cadavers and non-human analogues that builds on our current knowledge of forensic taphonomy to answer these nagging questions. This will enable the discipline to make the reliable assumption that pigs and donor decomposition data can be applied to homicide cases. A suite of experimental design aspects is suggested to ensure systematic and standardized data collection across different biogeoclimatic circumstances to identify and quantify the effects of potential confounding variables. Such studies in multiple, varied biogeographic circumstances with standardized protocols, equipment and carrion will facilitate independent global validation of patterns. These factors are reviewed to show the need for adjustments in experimental design to ensure relevance and applicability of data within locally realistic forensic situations. The initiation of a global decomposition data network for forensic taphonomists is recommended.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/20961790.2020.1792631
Uncontrolled keywords: Forensic sciences, forensic taphonomy, decomposition, Daubert standard, exclusion cages, clothed pigs, carrion biomass, scavenging
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Devin Finaughty
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2020 13:53 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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