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Forensic Entomology and the Archaeology of War

Vanin, Stefano, Turchetto, Margherita, Galassi, Andrea and Cattaneo, Christine (2009) Forensic Entomology and the Archaeology of War. Journal of Conflict Archaeology, 5 (1). pp. 127-139. ISSN 1574-0773

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Abstract

In the Pre-Alps and Alps of north-eastern Italy, where the First World War was fought, the
discovery of human remains is not a rare event. In the past year, the skeleton of an Italian
soldier was found at an altitude of 1000m. The skeleton was almost complete, with the skull
in the helmet. As in the majority of these discoveries, the absence of metallic identity tags
and of personal effects makes it virtually impossible to identify the soldier. The integration
between historical, anthropologic, military, entomological and genetic data could, however,
be useful for dating and for identification. The results of the skeletal analysis indicated a man
aged between 16 to 19 years old, and short of stature. Death was caused by shrapnel from a
shell, which penetrated the head and the helmet. Several puparia and cuticle fragments were
collected from the ammunition pouches and identified as Phormia regina, Protophormia terranovae
and Fannia cannicularis. The phenology of the species collected suggests that colonisation most
probably began during early summer. Discovery of insects associated with the remains of
soldiers from WWI and WWII can provide a means to determine the season of death.
Additionally, insect evidence can be used to determine if the body was exposed for a period of
time following death or immediately hidden or buried. These facts are critical in narrowing
down the list of potential individuals who may be finally identified and their remains, one day,
buried under a gravestone with their name.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QL Zoology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA1001 Forensic Medicine. Medical jurisprudence. Legal medicine
Schools: School of Applied Sciences
School of Applied Sciences > Forensic Biology Research Group
Depositing User: Sara Taylor
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2011 16:19
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2013 15:58
URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/11658

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