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Trace evidence - Advancements in forensic science

September 26, 2022

Science is playing an increasingly crucial role in efforts to solve crime. Soil analyses provide information about the crime scene. Blood samples track the progression of events. Even insects can be used to calculate the time of death.


The discovery of DNA analysis heralded what has probably been the most important revolution in the history of criminal investigation. At the same time, it marked a key shift in law enforcement’s approach: before long, it became clear that in addition to police and public prosecutors, an additional group of professionals would be needed provide decisive information in endeavors to solve crime. Namely, forensic scientists.

Lorna Dawson specializes in soil investigation. After all, the forest floor is as unique as a fingerprint. Philippe Esperanca can make even invisible blood traces visible. At the Frankfurt Institute of Legal Medicine, entomologist Jens Amendt works with flies and their larvae. Using insects found on a corpse to establish the time of death is a well-established method. But Amendt is taking it to the next level.

Omnipresent pollen can provide information as to who has been near a corpse, where a person went before their death, or at which time of year a person died. Due to the longevity of pollen grains, traces are sometimes conserved for thousands of years. This enables Martina Weber from Vienna to help in the investigation of contemporary crimes, as well as to evaluate the historic events in Pompeii.

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