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The suitability of visual taphonomic methods for digital photographs: An experimental approach with pig carcasses in a tropical climate

Ribéreau-Gayon, A; Rando, C; Morgan, RM; Carter, DO; (2018) The suitability of visual taphonomic methods for digital photographs: An experimental approach with pig carcasses in a tropical climate. Science and Justice , 58 (3) pp. 167-176. 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.001. Green open access

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Abstract

In the context of increased scrutiny of the methods in forensic sciences, it is essential to ensure that the approaches used in forensic taphonomy to measure decomposition and estimate the postmortem interval are underpinned by robust evidence-based data. Digital photographs are an important source of documentation in forensic taphonomic investigations but the suitability of the current approaches for photographs, rather than real-time remains, is poorly studied which can undermine accurate forensic conclusions. The present study aimed to investigate the suitability of 2D colour digital photographs for evaluating decomposition of exposed human analogues (Sus scrofa domesticus) in a tropical savanna environment (Hawaii), using two published scoring methods; Megyesi et al., 2005 and Keough et al., 2017. It was found that there were significant differences between the real-time and photograph decomposition scores when the Megyesi et al. method was used. However, the Keough et al. method applied to photographs reflected real-time decomposition more closely and thus appears more suitable to evaluate pig decomposition from 2D photographs. The findings indicate that the type of scoring method used has a significant impact on the ability to accurately evaluate the decomposition of exposed pig carcasses from photographs. It was further identified that photographic taphonomic analysis can reach high inter-observer reproducibility. These novel findings are of significant importance for the forensic sciences as they highlight the potential for high quality photograph coverage to provide useful complementary information for the forensic taphonomic investigation. New recommendations to develop robust transparent approaches adapted to photographs in forensic taphonomy are suggested based on these findings.

Type: Article
Title: The suitability of visual taphonomic methods for digital photographs: An experimental approach with pig carcasses in a tropical climate
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.001
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.001
Language: English
Additional information: © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd on behalf of The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/BY/4.0/).
Keywords: Decomposition; Post-mortem interval; Total Body Score; Visual evaluation; Digital images; Reliability
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10040609
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