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Commingled Human Remains - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780124058897, 9780124059184

Commingled Human Remains

1st Edition

Methods in Recovery, Analysis, and Identification

Authors: Bradley Adams John Byrd
Paperback ISBN: 9780124058897
eBook ISBN: 9780124059184
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 6th June 2014
Page Count: 544
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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.

Key Features

  • A powerful resource for those working in the forensic sciences who need to plan for and/or address the complex challenges associated with commingled and fragmentary human remains
  • Written by an international group of the foremost forensic scientists presenting their research and candid experiences of dealing with commingled human remains, offering recommendations and providing "lessons learned" which can be invaluable to others who find themselves facing similar challenges
  • Contains chapters on remains recovery, laboratory analysis, case studies, and broader topics such as mass fatality management and ethical considerations


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

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • About the Editors
  • About the Contributors
  • Chapter 1. Commingling Analysis: Historical and Methodological Perspectives
    • Separation of Bone and Tooth from Other Materials
  • Chapter 2. Spatial Analysis of Mass Grave Mapping Data to Assist in the Reassociation of Disarticulated and Commingled Human Remains
    • Introduction
    • Materials and Methods
    • Results
    • Discussion
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter 3. Recovery Methods for Cremated Commingled Remains: Analysis and Interpretation of Small Fragments Using a Bioarchaeological Approach
    • Introduction
    • Documentation
    • Analyses
    • Interpretation
    • Summary
    • Concluding Remarks
  • Chapter 4. More Pieces of the Puzzle: F.B.I. Evidence Response Team Approaches to Scenes with Commingled Evidence
    • Introduction
    • FBI Evidence Response Team Operational Guidelines and Responsibilities
    • The 12-Step Approach to Crime Scene Processing
    • Commingling within Cold Case Exhumations
    • Conclusions
  • Chapter 5. The Use of Radiology in Mass Fatality Events
    • History
    • Imaging Modalities
    • Radiation Protection
    • Application of Radiographic Methods to Mass Fatalities
    • Conventional Approach
    • Mass Fatality Investigation Using MDCT
    • Case Studies
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter 6. A Practical Method for Detecting Commingled Remains Using Epiphyseal Union
    • Background Information
    • Foundations for Understanding Epiphyseal Union Sequencing
    • Designing a Recording Form
    • Two Examples Demonstrating Use of the Recording Form
    • Testing the Method
    • Discussion
    • Appendix 6-1
    • Antenna Diagram
    • Appendix 6-2
    • Epiphyseal Recording Sheet for Maturational Sequence Analysis
  • Chapter 7. Application of Portable X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) for Sorting Commingled Human Remains
    • Introduction
    • X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry
    • Use of XRF on Human Skeletal Remains
    • Materials and Methods
    • Results
    • Discussion and Conclusion
  • Chapter 8. Osteometric Sorting
    • Data Sources and Analytical Methods
    • Models for Osteometric Sorting
    • Assessment of Results
    • Conclusion
    • Appendix 8-1
  • Chapter 9. Estimating the Number of Individuals Represented by Commingled Human Remains: A Critical Evaluation of Methods
    • Introduction
    • Factors Affecting Quantification: Bone Preservation and Scale of the Incident
    • Quantification Techniques
    • Test for the Accuracy of Visual Pair Matching
    • Test Application of the MNI and MLNI: Larson Village
    • Alternative Methods for Estimating the Number of Individuals
    • Some Comments on Counting Pairs of Bones
    • Final Considerations
  • Chapter 10. Assessment of Commingled Human Remains Using a GIS-Based and Osteological Landmark Approach
    • Introduction
    • Issues of Fragmentary and Commingled Human Remains
    • Walker–Noe (15Gd56)
    • Walker–Noe Skeletal Analysis
    • Landmark Analysis
    • GIS Analysis
    • GIS Results and Discussion
    • Comparison of Landmark and GIS Analyses
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter 11. Human Cremation: Commingling and Questioned Identity
    • Introduction
    • The Inevitability of Commingling in Cremation
    • Factors That May Lead to Excessive Commingling
    • How Commingling Is Detected
    • The Biological Remains
    • Personal Identification in Cremains Analysis
    • How Commingling Becomes a Legal Issue
    • How Is Commingling Described to a Jury?
    • Case Study
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter 12. Marrying Anthropology and DNA: Essential for Solving Complex Commingling Problems in Cases of Extreme Fragmentation
    • Introduction
    • Part I: Overview of WTC Identification Process
    • Part II: WTC Case Examples
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter 13. Prioritized Sampling of Bone and Teeth for DNA Analysis in Commingled Cases
    • Introduction
    • Methods
    • Results
    • Discussion
    • Protocols
    • Specific Recommendations
    • After Sampling
    • Conclusion
    • Appendices
  • Chapter 14. A Multidisciplinary Approach to Commingled Remains Analysis: Anthropology, Genetics, and Background Information
    • Forensic Anthropology and the Investigation of Human Rights Violations
    • Types of Scenarios
    • Background Information
    • Multidisciplinary Approach in Commingled Remains
    • Anthropological Reassociation of Remains and Sampling for Genetic Analysis
    • Illustrating with Some of the Investigated Cases
    • Lessons Learned and Recommendations
    • And Now What? Future Challenges
  • Chapter 15. Blast and Crash Incidents: Resolving Commingling at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System
    • Overview of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System
    • Combat Considerations
    • AFMES Autopsy Protocols
    • AFMES Dissociated Remains Protocols
    • Total Fragmentation of the Decedent
    • Subsequent Recovery of Remains and Final Disposition
    • Examples of Commingling Resolution at the AFMES
    • Summary and Conclusions
  • Chapter 16. Forensic Investigation of Suicidal Bombings in Israel: Balancing Religious Considerations with Medicolegal Responsibilities
    • Introduction
    • Religious Beliefs Concerning Postmortem Examinations in Israel
    • History of Forensic Medicine in Israel
    • Suicidal Bombing
    • Resilience
  • Chapter 17. Anthropologist-Directed Triage: Three Distinct Mass Fatality Events Involving Fragmentation and Commingling of Human Remains
    • Introduction
    • Triage
    • The Three Disasters
    • The World Trade Center Disaster
    • The Crash of American Airlines Flight 587
    • The Staten Island Ferry Crash
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter 18. Recovery and Identification of Victims of the Colgan Air Flight 3407 Crash
    • Introduction
    • The Incident
    • Recovery and Documentation of Human Remains at Crash Site
    • Morgue Operations
    • Findings of the NTSB Investigation
    • Retrospective on Incident Response
  • Chapter 19. The Korea 208: A Large-Scale Commingling Case of American Remains from the Korean War
    • Introduction: JPAC and the CIL
    • Background: The Korean War and K208
    • K208 Analysis: Segregation, Consolidation, and Identification
    • K208 Case Studies
    • Challenges
    • Conclusions
  • Chapter 20. Data Management and Commingled Remains
    • Introduction
    • MFI Data
    • Identification Errors at an MFI
    • DNA Testing on Degraded Remains
    • Partial DNA Profiles
    • Summary of Identification Errors at an MFI
    • Summary of AM Intake Dynamics
    • Challenges in the AM Interview Process
    • Error Rates in the AM Records
    • Error Rates in the PM Records
    • Addressing the Problems
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter 21. Resolving Commingling Issues During the Medicolegal Investigation of Mass Fatality Incidents
    • Identification
    • Fragmentation, Reassociation, and Identification: Influencing Parameters
    • Managing the Identification Process: Applying Human Remains Triage Principles
    • Establishing Human Remains Triage Guidelines
    • Human Remains Tracking Systems
    • Group Remains Classification
    • The Probative Index System
    • DNA Sampling Guidelines
    • Triage Station Staffing, Quality Assurance, and Control
    • Mass Fatality Morgue Operations
    • Case Study: United Airlines Flight 93
    • Family Assistance Considerations
    • Additional Considerations: Policy, Ethics, and Family Expectations
    • Conclusions
  • Chapter 22. Mass Fatality Management and the Effects of Commingling
    • Introduction
    • Overview of Mass Fatality Incidents in the U.S. from 2000 to 2013
    • Planning Considerations
    • Lessons Learned
  • Chapter 23. The Social Complexities of Commingled Remains
    • The Scientific Quandaries of Commingled Remains: Intent and Uncertainty
    • Srebrenica’s Secondary Mass Graves
    • Commingling’s Effect on Religious Ritual: Srebrenica’s Collective Cemetery
    • Reassociation and Decisions to Bury
    • Re-exhumations at Potočari
    • Conclusion: Commingling of the Dead and Living
  • Index


No. of pages:
© Academic Press 2014
6th June 2014
Academic Press
Paperback ISBN:
eBook ISBN:

About the Authors

Bradley Adams

Dr. Adams’ expertise is in the field of Forensic Anthropology. He is currently the Director of the Forensic Anthropology Unit for the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York City. Dr. Adams and his team are responsible for all forensic anthropology casework in the five boroughs of New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island). Dr. Adams and his team are also integral players in the ongoing recovery and identification work related to the September 11, 2001 attacks of the World Trade Center. Prior to accepting the position in New York, Dr. Adams was a Forensic Anthropologist and Laboratory Manager at the Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) in Hawaii from 1997-2004. The CIL is responsible for recovering missing U.S. military personnel from remote locations across the globe and its staff utilizes forensic anthropology as a key component in the identification efforts. While with the CIL, Dr. Adams directed large-scale recovery operations in such locations as Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea, and Papua New Guinea. Dr. Adams has served as an expert witness in Forensic Anthropology in multiple court cases, he has worked as the project osteologist on several archaeological excavations, he has authored/edited several books, and he has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals on topics relating primarily to forensic anthropology. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, a Fellow with the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a founding board member of the Scientific Working Group for Forensic Anthropology, and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Affiliations and Expertise

Forensic Anthropologist, New York, NY, USA

John Byrd

Dr. John E. Byrd earned his doctorate from the University of Tennessee in 1994. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Forensic Sciences. He has been Laboratory Director at the Central Identification Laboratory, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command since 2009.

Affiliations and Expertise

Central Identification Laboratory, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command


"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. This edition focuses on forensic situations, although some examples from prehistoric contexts are addressed.", Sep-Oct 2014

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