Most forensic archaeological investigations take place outdoors, where considerations of scene location and weather must be made. One must make carefully consider logistics to determine what equipment is necessary and potentially useful. A consideration of logistics also implies planning for broader issues such as how to approach the site and how to delimit the area under investigation.
In the case of buried evidence, a forensic archaeologist will excavate. Excavation refers to the process of digging out or uncovering objects in the ground. In a forensic investigation, an archaeologist may be called to excavate a grave.
Before the destructive process of excavating a grave begins, all evidence on the ground surface must be documented and collected. Surface evidence can include plants, insects, objects such as clothing or a weapon, and human remains.
All evidence should be photographed and mapped, showing the location of each item in relation to other evidence as well as to other important features such as buildings, streams, roads or fences. Once the location of evidence is documented, investigators may collect it. How each piece of evidence is collected and cared for depends on various factors, explained in the section: Inventory of Evidence.
Excavation is destructive, so careful documentation of the work is very important. At a scene with a grave, the forensic archaeologist's first task is to define the shape and size of the grave. Then, they remove the soil inside the grave carefully - documenting, photographing and collecting everything that is found that might help understand how that person died, was buried and who they are. Excavated soil is often screened to look for small objects, bones, insects or other evidence that can help with the investigation.
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