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Evidence from the Earth

This summer I visited the Geology Museum in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, on the western shore of the Bay of Fundy. The area is known as the Cliffs of Fundy and is designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark. It has the highest tides in the world and studies of the terrain reveal the coming together of the supercontinent Pangea 300 million years ago and its ripping apart 100 million years later.

The Geology Museum is world-class and includes exhibits of the many fossils, gems, and minerals discovered in the area. Its museum store yielded another treasure, a book entitled, Evidence from the Earth: Forensic Geology and Criminal Investigation, by Raymond C. Murray.

Forensic geology, who would have thought? The book details a number of cases in which the mud on a pair of jeans or the grains of sand in a shoe or other examples pointed to the criminal. Murray says that forensic geology is based on the principle, first stated by French criminalist Edmond Locard, that any time two objects touch, there is a transfer .It may not be detected, could be worn or washed away, but the transfer has taken place. Forensic geologists take samples of earth materials that have been transferred between objects and analyze them to determine their origins or sources. The results may then be presented as evidence in criminal or civil legal proceedings.

A common type of investigation might be to identify a material that is key to a case. Beyond identification, they look at the source of a particular material. This requires a broad knowledge of geology and excellent geologic and soil maps. Forensic geology is also used in intelligence work. A person who claims to have never been to a particular site but has rocks from that site is thus linked to the site.

cludes examples where forensic geology was used in police work, discussions of the origin and distribution of earth materials, evidence collection, examination methods and of particular interest to me, mine, mineral, gem, and art fraud.

This book on forensic geology is an excellent addition to my library of resources for writing mysteries and offers a wealth of possibilities for plots.


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