This studentship proposes to develop a new line of research in dental taphonomy, developing and implementing novel methods by combining both outdoor and indoor laboratory techniques to examine dental morphology, development, and bacterial invasion. The overarching aim of this part of the project is to identify the patterns of dental diagenesis after burial or submersion, investigating at the macro-, micro-, and nano-scales, considering multiple different burial conditions.
Taphonomy is the study of organic decomposition and fossilisation. In a forensic context, taphonomy enables us to understand how different environments affect the human decomposition process and ultimately allows us to reconstruct what has happened to a body post-mortem. While still a relatively new forensic discipline, current forensic taphonomy research underpins our ability to provide post-mortem intervals, differentiate between natural, scavenging, or deliberate post-mortem movement, and distinguish natural alterations from ante-, peri-, and post-mortem traumas. It is therefore a vital addition to death investigations.
This research project aims to pioneer a new line of explorative forensic taphonomy research, investigating the reconstruction of post-mortem decomposition in both skeletal and dental tissues using a multi-scale approach. Outdoor facilities at Keele University will be used to generate simulated clandestine graves (terrestrial and aquatic). Cutting-edge analytical and imaging techniques will be used to identify and measure the decomposition and diagenesis of teeth and bone from the macroscale to the nanoscale. These include 3D scanning, biomedical imaging, thin-section histology, microscopy, spectrometry, X-ray fluorescence, and X-ray diffraction.