Micropalaeontology is a component part of forensic geology, but it also has strong links with botany and palaeoecology. Despite the now almost universal use of DNA in criminal investigations there are still many crimes for which micropalaeontological analyses can provide useful, if not crucial, forensic evidence. This chapter outlines the development and use of microfossils and environmental profiling, using pollen and spores in particular, but also other microfossils such as diatoms, ostracods and foraminifera. The critical attributes of microfossils are their small size, robustness and known source or distribution. The value of a multi-microfossil approach and the use of allied geological data, such as mineralogy, is also discussed. The use of microfossil data is illustrated using two forensic case studies, one in the UK and one undertaken for the United Nations after the Bosnian War, both of which were tested in court.
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The Archaeological and Forensic Applications of Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History
Microfossils are an abundant component of the sedimentary rock record. Their analysis can reveal not only the environments in which the rocks were deposited, but also their age. When combined, the spatial and temporal distribution patterns of microfossils offer enormous utility for archaeological and forensic investigations. Their presence can act as a geological ‘fingerprint’ and the tiniest fragment of material, such as a broken Iron Age potsherd, can contain a microfossil signature that reveals the geographical source of the materials under investigation. This book explores how microfossils are employed as tools to interpret human society and habitation throughout history. Examples include microfossil evidence associated with Palaeolithic human occupation at Boxgrove in Sussex, alongside investigations into human-induced landscape change during the Holocene. Further examples include the use of microfossils to provenance the source materials of Iron Age ceramics, Roman mosaics and Minoan pottery, in addition to their application to help solve modern murder cases, highlighting the diverse applications of microfossils to improving our understanding of human history.