CHAPTER 13The forensic anthropologist as broker for cross‐disciplinary taphonomic research related to estimating the postmortem interval in medicolegal death investigations

Daniel J. Wescott

Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State, Department of Anthropology, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, USA

13.1 Introduction

Estimating the postmortem interval (PMI) is often a primary objective in criminal investigations and therefore an issue of interest shared by numerous disciplines, including anthropology, botany, entomology, geoscience, medicine, microbiology, and others. Professionals in these fields understand the complexity of decomposition and strive to uncover the underlying similarities and rules governing how carrion is recycled (i.e., how dead animals decompose and the chemicals from the bodies are recycled into the environment). In the past, scientists have attempted to understand this complexity using methods and theories from their own disciplines. However, new models and approaches are needed in the wake of recent criticisms of the scientific basis of forensic science (National Research Council, 2009) and the need for reproducible and valid methods with known error rates (Dirkmaat et al., 2008; Christensen and Crowder, 2009; Christensen et al., 2014). This cannot be accomplished if the various disciplines approach the topic separately.

Complex issues that are driven by multiple forces, such as carrion recycling, require integrated cross‐disciplinary approaches ...

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