Upper division students from the BS in Forensic Investigations Program completed a final project for their CJF3470 Forensic Anthropology course: a full grave excavation. Professor Michael Weissberg, Program Director for the BS in Forensic Investigations Program and the AS in Crime Scene Technology Program, and Professor Bart Baca, PhD, buried a skeleton in a shallow grave and allowed it to age naturally for about two weeks. They also salted the site with clothing and disguised it with rubbish, leaves, and branches.
Before getting their hands dirty, students learned about indigenous animals that they might encounter: black vultures, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, and cottonmouth moccasins. Students were then asked to search an area the size of a football field, identify the grave, and decide where to dig. After a full day of digging in 93° heat, they uncovered a single vertebrae.
The next day, the dig continued. Students eventually recovered the entire skeleton, which they then had to reassemble and clean in the lab. BSFI students were responsible for measuring, photographing, documenting, and graphing the scene. Lower division students from the AS in Crime Scene Technology Program were invited to the site to observe.