Abstract

Palynology has developed over the last 100 years, and has been used chiefly in palaeoecology, environmental archaeology, geology, and taxonomy. Many publications concern general and esoteric methods used in branches of palynology, but most are derived from the Quaternary sciences. The literature in forensic palynology, in contrast, is relatively small, disparate, and fragmented. No comprehensive guide to best practice for the forensic palynologist has previously been published. The protocols presented here address that need, and are based, though not exclusively, on the author’s experience over 20 years, primarily in the UK and Ireland where every police force has been assisted in some way. Regional differences in police practices have been ignored here, and the protocols concentrate on essential requirements. The spectrum of activity from first encounter with a client (such as the police) to a final court appearance is addressed, and can be applied wherever forensic palynology is employed. While procedures can be standardised to a considerable extent, it is not possible to provide guidelines on the interpretation of data. Interpretative skills require repeated exposure to casework and an understanding of the complexity of palynological taphonomy (all the factors affecting whether a palynomorph will be found at a particular place, at a particular time). As every case is unique, each presents new challenges, so a fully formulaic or inflexible protocol would be unhelpful in the interpretation of palynological profiles. References to more detailed information are provided where other literature, especially in Quaternary science, is inadequate for forensic purposes.

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