Volume 50, Issue 1 (January 2005)
Recognition of Cemetery Remains in A Forensic Context
The purpose of this paper is to provide guidelines for the recognition of human remains from modern and historic cemeteries found in a forensic context. Three avenues of evidence may be pursued to confirm the origin of cemetery remains: context, condition of the body, and associated artifacts. This article outlines types of North American cemeteries, demonstrating how land use over time has resulted in many being closed, moved, or forgotten, leaving only the context to indicate their presence. The condition of human cemetery remains varies considerably depending on cultural practices and burial environment, but many exhibit combinations of the following traits: dried or embalmed tissue; erosion of bony pressure points; cortical bone flaking; and bone damage due to autopsy or embalming. Examples of artifact types useful in recognizing cemetery remains are also provided. Two cases from British Columbia, Canada are presented to demonstrate the diagnostic features of a disturbed cemetery burial.