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Published On: Sun, Mar 15th, 2015

Modern Forensic Science: Solving the Oldest and Coldest Cases

Modern forensic science is useful for investigators as a means of solving the most complex crimes. But, most people mistakenly believe that it’s only useful for modern or recent ones. Some new research proves otherwise.

The Case Of Cangrande I della Scala

Companies, like usainvestigators.com, often use forensics to uncover evidence of murder, but the same techniques used today can also be used to uncover ancient murder mysteries. The curious case of Cangrande I della Scala reveals that the warrior ruler was poisoned, probably by his own physician.

In 1291, Scala rose to power and became a skilled warrior, taking possession of the Padua region at the age of 37 – this, after 16 years of warfare. A study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science now proves that a widely rumored cause of death at the time (poisoning) was actually true.

X-Ray and CT scans show most of the internal structures were intact. Aside from the poisoning, scientists also discovered evidence of osteoarthritis and tuberculosis as well as traces of faecal matter.

It was the fecal matter that allowed them to determine the cause of death. Apparently, he was given a tea containing chamomile and black mulberry, spiked with pollen spores of the deadly digitalis plant (known as foxglove).

photo Nummer 12

photo Nummer 12

Richard III

King Richard III lived an interesting life. But, we now have more information about his diet than we ever thought possible. Using an advanced analysis of his remains, specifically his rib bones and femur, scientists have been able to reverse-engineer the king’s diet, his approximate whereabouts in Europe at various times throughout his life, and then create a “map” of his life based on the elemental structure of those bones.

The Crime of The 17th Century

Forensic anthropologists at the National Museum of Natural History have made an unlikely discovery. An unknown boy, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, was found buried underneath a layer of fireplace ash and animal bones.

Cause of death? Scientists believe it was a violent murder at the hands of a slave-master. But, the boy in question wasn’t black. Analysis of the skull reveals that it was a Caucasian male of European decent between the ages of 15 and 16. The boy’s spine and teeth were damaged, probably caused by hard labor or disease of some kind.

This type of situation wasn’t uncommon in the mid 17th century, when young European men and women would sign indentured contracts with Chesapeake planters – effectively becoming slaves to merchants, plantation owners, and tradesmen.

Usually, the contract would require the servant to work for at least four years to pay off a debt. However, it wasn’t uncommon for the person to die in bondage due to the harsh living and working conditions.

Evidence shows a wrist fracture. That, coupled with the awkward burial, suggest a violent death. Artifacts like a coin dated 1664 and a piece of window stamped 1663 place the death at about the time when laws were being passed to prevent private burial of servants.

Guest Author :

Jared Stern is an experienced leader in the field of critical incident management and threat assessment. He also has extensive investigative and risk-mitigation experience. A U.S. Marines veteran, he is the CEO and president of Prudential Associates, a risk management and force-protection company. His articles can be found on many crime and forensics websites.

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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