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Guidelines for the Recognition of Cemetery Remains in Greece

Eliopoulos, Constantine PhD*; Moraitis, Konstantinos PhD; Reyes, Federico PhD; Spiliopoulou, Chara MD, PhD; Manolis, Sotiris PhD*

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: June 2011 - Volume 32 - Issue 2 - p 153-156
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3182156405
Original Articles

Forensic pathologists frequently consult anthropologists for the identification of skeletonized human remains. These remains may be the result of criminal activity or remains that were unearthed because of erosion, or during construction projects. In some cases, human remains that had been previously buried in a cemetery may be the subject of a forensic investigation. Early recognition of cemetery remains prevents unnecessary efforts and conserves precious resources. One of the key characteristics of cemetery remains is the presence of embalmed tissue. However, there are countries where embalming is not a common practice, and other clues must be sought for identifying previously buried remains. Current funerary customs in Greece and, in particular, the tradition of exhumations result in a large number of misplaced human remains. The present study presents examples of cemetery remains from Greece and offers guidelines for recognizing changes on skeletal remains that may be indicative of a cemetery origin. Location of discovery, condition of the remains, and the types of associated artifacts are all factors that aid forensic anthropologists in identifying cemetery remains.

From the *Department of Animal and Human Physiology, Faculty of Biology, and †Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, School of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece; and ‡Stratford Road, London, UK.

Manuscript received January 7, 2009; accepted September 18, 2009.

This article was presented at the 16th European Meeting of the Paleopathology Association, August 28 to September 1, 2006, Santorini, Greece.

Reprints: Constantine Eliopoulos, PhD, Department of Animal and Human Physiology, Faculty of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Panepistimiopolis 157 84, Athens, Greece. E-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.