Calcareous micropalaeontology in forensic investigations, with particular reference to the so-called ‘Soham murder case’
Published:January 01, 2017
Haydon W. Bailey, Liam T. Gallagher, Andrew Moncrieff, Christopher J. Wood, 2017. "Calcareous micropalaeontology in forensic investigations, with particular reference to the so-called ‘Soham murder case’", The Archaeological and Forensic Applications of Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History, M. Williams, T. Hill, I. Boomer, I. P. Wilkinson
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There is a considerable history of using calcareous microfossils in criminal investigations, and cases all fall into the provenance category. These are cases in which sediments containing calcareous microfossils are associated with a crime scene, but do not necessarily originate in that location. By establishing the provenance of the sediment based on specific characteristic microfossils, the micropalaeontologist is able to assist in the investigation by potentially linking a vehicle and its user with a crime scene. This study examines the use of both foraminifera and calcareous nannoplankton in criminal investigations. It focuses on the importance of both microfossil groups during the police investigation of the Soham murder case in which these microfossils were used to place the suspect’s vehicle at the location where the bodies of the two victims were found. Clear recognition of both the foraminifera and the calcareous nannoplankton on the vehicle as being from a stratigraphically constrained unit of the Cretaceous Grey Chalk, and the establishment of its provenance, were a major element of the prosecution case. Other lithological criteria, including the mineralogy of the chalk and the field evidence regarding access routes and site topography, were also used to exclude alternative potential sources for the chalk on the vehicle.
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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.