2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 2:10 PM


RUFFELL, Alastair, School of Geography, Archaeology, Palaeoecology, Queen's University Belfast, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT26 6BJ, United Kingdom, a.ruffell@qub.ac.uk

The geological control on landscapes and landscape evolution provides a basis for both understanding where victims, weapons, explosives and contraband may be hidden and for informing search strategy. Rural (and some urban) landforms are strongly influenced by underlying geology. Blending solid geology, drift (surficial) geology, topography with infrastructure (roads, access, visibility) and behaviour of the likely offender can assist in limiting search areas, prioritising search locations and committing resources to investigations. This strategy may apply to a variety of geographic environments, from upland peat-bogs and forests, through mixed agricultural to lowland swamp, coastal dune and fluvial environments. Topography and land use are key elements to the search strategy and so in areas where insufficient topographic mapping exists, GPS-linked digital terrain models provide the fundamental data for a sector-based landscape division. On top of this, remotely-sensed data can be applied to provide information on vegetation, soil cover and geology. The ultimate aim is not an X marks the spot, but more a cost-effective, prioritised hierarchy of search locations. This methodology is demonstrated with regard to buried murder victims in Ireland, France and the Mediterranean, but may apply to disaster response, genocide investigations and searches for hidden materials.