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Forensic Advances in Chemical Sorting of Commingled Remains

November 30, 2023 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST

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The NIJ Forensic Technology Center of Excellence will host a forensic training event: Advances in Chemical Sorting of Commingled Remains on 30 November 2023 via webinar.

A major challenge in forensic anthropology is the development of efficient and effective methodologies for sorting skeletal remains in mixed assemblages. The process of reassociating bones to their respective individual using physical and morphological traits is tedious.

This presentation will focus on the results of ongoing research under the NIJ-funded study, “Pre-grouping of commingled human skeletal remains by elemental analysis.” This study simulates the analysis of mass graves and the reassociation of commingled remains via the chemical information provided by laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy.

When multiple sets of human remains exist in the same context, they can become mixed up, or commingled. Commingling happens because of broad, multifactorial circumstances that affect the postmortem environment ranging from animal scattering to mass burial, or errors during recovery and curation. Sorting commingled remains back into their individual skeletons is challenging and often achieved through using various indicators such as age, sex, post-depositional modification, morphology, and size.

Certainty in sorting can only be achieved through DNA testing, which is destructive as well as cost and time prohibitive. Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is a useful tool for sorting commingled remains. LIBS technology provides an elemental profile of the material being analyzed, in this case, human bones and teeth. LIBS can determine that unique elemental profile to help sort commingled remains.

Detailed Learning Objectives:

1. Attendees will understand how laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) acquires a chemical profile of remains.

2. Attendees will recognize how the chemical profiles of skeletal remains are used to sort bones at the individual level.

3. Attendees will recognize the current limitations and ongoing research questions related to chemical reassociation.

Please visit the NIJ’s Advances in Chemical Sorting of Commingled Remains website to register to attend.


November 30, 2023
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST
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National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
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