Mapping simulated scenes with skeletal remains using differential GPS in open environments: An assessment of accuracy and practicality



B. S. Walter;J. J. Schultz


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Abbreviated Journal Title

Forensic Sci.Int.


Forensic archaeology; Forensic anthropology; Differential global; positioning systems; Mapping skeletal dispersals; Geographic information; systems; NAVIGATION SATELLITE SYSTEMS; GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM; SCATTERED HUMAN; REMAINS; FIELD; Medicine, Legal


Scene mapping is an integral aspect of processing a scene with scattered human remains. By utilizing the appropriate mapping technique, investigators can accurately document the location of human remains and maintain a precise geospatial record of evidence. One option that has not received much attention for mapping forensic evidence is the differential global positioning (DGPS) unit, as this technology now provides decreased positional error suitable for mapping scenes. Because of the lack of knowledge concerning this utility in mapping a scene, controlled research is necessary to determine the practicality of using newer and enhanced DGPS units in mapping scattered human remains. The purpose of this research was to quantify the accuracy of a DGPS unit for mapping skeletal dispersals and to determine the applicability of this utility in mapping a scene with dispersed remains. First, the accuracy of the DGPS unit in open environments was determined using known survey markers in open areas. Secondly, three simulated scenes exhibiting different types of dispersals were constructed and mapped in an open environment using the DGPS. Variables considered during data collection included the extent of the dispersal, data collection time, data collected on different days, and different postprocessing techniques. Data were differentially postprocessed and compared in a geographic information system (GIS) to evaluate the most efficient recordation methods. Results of this study demonstrate that the DGPS is a viable option for mapping dispersed human remains in open areas. The accuracy of collected point data was 11.52 and 9.55 cm for 50- and 100-s collection times, respectfully, and the orientation and maximum length of long bones was maintained. Also, the use of error buffers for point data of bones in maps demonstrated the error of the DGPS unit, while showing that the context of the dispersed skeleton was accurately maintained. Furthermore, the application of a DGPS for accurate scene mapping is discussed and guidelines concerning the implementation of this technology for mapping human scattered skeletal remains in open environments are provided. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Journal Title

Forensic Science International





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