Commingled Human Remains

Methods in Recovery, Analysis, and Identification


  • Bradley Adams, Forensic Anthropologist, New York, NY, USA
  • John Byrd, Central Identification Laboratory, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command

Commingled human remains are encountered in situations ranging from prehistoric ossuaries to recent mass fatality incidents. Commingled Human Remains: Methods in Recovery, Analysis, and Identification brings together tools from diverse sources within the forensic science community to offer a set of comprehensive approaches to resolving issues associated with commingled remains. This edition focuses on forensic situations, although some examples from prehistoric contexts are also addressed. Commingling of bones and other body parts is a major obstacle to individual identification that must be addressed before other forensic determinations or research can proceed. Regardless of the cause for the commingling (transportation disaster, terrorist attack, natural disaster, genocide, etc.) it is critical that the proper experts are involved and that the proper techniques are employed to achieve the greatest success in making identifications. Resolution of commingling nearly always requires consideration of multiple lines of evidence that cross the disciplinary lines of modern forensic science. The use of archaeology, DNA, and forensic anthropology are several areas that are critical in this process and these are core topics presented in this book. Even a relatively “simple” mass fatality event can become very complicated once body fragmentation and commingling occur. Expectations associated with all phases of the process from recovery of remains to their final identification and release to next of kin must be managed appropriately.
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Forensic anthropologists, forensic scientists, medical examiners, coroners, first responders, paleontologists, archaeologists, osteologists, forensic professionals in law enforcement and academia, students in biological, biophysical, biomedical and paleontological sciences.


Book information

  • Published: June 2014
  • ISBN: 978-0-12-405889-7

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Commingling Analysis: Historical and Methodological Perspectives
Chapter 2: Spatial Analysis of Mass Grave Mapping Data to Assist in the Reassociation of Disarticulated and Commingled Human Remains
Chapter 3: Recovery Methods for Cremated Commingled Remains: Analysis and Interpretation of Small Fragments Using a Bioarchaeological Approach
Chapter 4: More Pieces of the Puzzle: F.B.I. Evidence Response Team Approaches to Scenes with Commingled Evidence
Chapter 5: The Use of Radiology in Mass Fatality Events
Chapter 6: A Practical Method for Detecting Commingled Remains Using Epiphyseal Union
Chapter 7: Application of Portable X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) for Sorting Commingled Human Remains
Chapter 8: Osteometric Sorting
Chapter 9: Estimating the Number of Individuals Represented by Commingled Human Remains: A Critical Evaluation of Methods
Chapter 10: Assessment of Commingled Human Remains Using a GIS-Based and Osteological Landmark Approach
Chapter 11: Human Cremation: Commingled and Questioned Identity
Chapter 12: Marrying Anthropology and DNA: Essentials for Solving Complex Commingling Problems in Cases of Extreme Fragmentation
Chapter 13: Prioritized Sampling of Bone and Teeth for DNA Analysis in Commingled Cases
Chapter 14: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Commingled Remains Analysis: Anthropology, Genetics and Background Information
Chapter 15: Blast and Crash Incidents: Resolving Commingling at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System
Chapter 16: Forensic Investigation of Suicidal Bombings in Israel: Balancing Religious Considerations with Medicological Responsibilities
Chapter 17: Anthropologist-Directed Triage: Three Distinct Mass Fatality Events Involving Fragmentation and Commingling of Human Remains
Chapter 18: Recovery and Identification of Victims of the Colgan Air Flight 3407 Crash
Chapter 19: The Korea 208: A Large-Scale Commingling Case of American Remains from the Korean War
Chapter 20: Data Management and Commingled Remains
Chapter 21: Resolving Commingling Issues During the Medicological Investigation of Mass Fatality Incidents
Chapter 22: Mass Fatality Management and the Effects of Commingling
Chapter 23: The Social Complexities of Commingled Remains