Archaeology has application in the forensic field when there is not only the need to search for and locate clandestine burials and to recover their remains, but also on the occasion of concealment of evidence, pollutants and any other material underground. The sequence of operations that lead to the localization and recovery of remains can be divided into three main phases. A preliminary reconnaissance of the alleged burial site, aimed at locating the exact point where to carry out the investigation, the actual excavation phase and the documentation and recovery
of the remains as they are excavated.
The tasks of the archaeologist consist in carrying out an excavation, carefully documenting each step, and in optimally recovering the objects found, whether they are human remains or materials of another nature.
In a forensic context, it can be important to know how to properly remove any human and non-human remains, although, often, in the excavation sites it is very easy to simply find scattered bones or teeth that have been taken and moved by predatory necrophagous animals. The recovery of the remains with forensic archeology techniques can provide information about the methods of deposition-concealment of the corpse and allow the discovery of clues useful to the investigative forces.
Archaeological excavation is a destructive operation; as a result, the need to fully document every single advancement has always been a factor of extreme importance. Over the years, therefore, more and more accurate methodologies have been developed and perfected with the main purpose of maximizing the number of information obtainable from the survey site. This approach is particularly suitable and useful in the forensic context, where the site of discovery constitutes the scene of a crime and the information kept in it can prove to be of fundamental importance for the reconstruction of the events and the success of the investigations. A good excavation documentation can be drawn up by properly trained judicial police operators; however, the analysis of the excavation and the remains, the interpretation of the data and the coordination of the subsequent recovery operations remain the exclusive prerogative of specialists in forensic archeology. The recovery of the remains with forensic archeology techniques can provide information about the methods of deposition-concealment of the corpse and allow the discovery of clues useful to the investigative forces. The analysis of the context, the excavation and the remains, the interpretation of environmental data and the coordination of subsequent recovery operations remain the exclusive prerogative of specialists in archeology. Archaeology is a destructive process and for this reason it is preferred to integrate it with other methods in order to move from a non-destructive analysis to a more invasive one, in order to minimize the loss of information.
For this reason, three basic objectives can be summarized in an archaeological forensic investigation. The first is the understanding and interpretation of taphonomic events - the history of a site after it was created through the deposition of remains. The second main objective is a reconstruction of the events that caused and occurred with the creation of the site and the deposition of the body. Finally, based on the evidence that the record of this material provides for the reconstruction and taphonomic history of the site, an investigator is able to realize the third goal, that of a conscious interpretation of the events surrounding the deposition of the deceased person, which will help in solving the case.
The success of an archaeological excavation begins well before the body or site to be investigated is found. You have to follow a well-defined protocol, train the staff with the help of experts and buy the appropriate equipment. Each case has its own peculiarities but generally to meet the first two needs, it would be appropriate to follow international protocols and Best Practice Manuals.