The Ethics and Practice of Forensic Archaeology, Unfunded Mandates, and the Unidentified

Author(s): Craig T. Goralski

Year: 2018


In 2001, California passed SB 297, which mandated that coroners "shall collect samples for DNA testing from the remains of all unidentified persons and shall send those samples to the Department of Justice for DNA testing and inclusion in the DNA data bank." This legislation, which was largely unfunded by the state, expanded existing DNA testing programs to include remains from cold cases that were being stored by state agencies and remains that had been interred in cemeteries throughout the state. This paper will discuss the challenges of creating a prioritized list of individuals to be exhumed from a potter’s field in San Bernardino, California, when various stakeholders approach questions of ethics and identity from different perspectives. The results of a multi-year project will be summarized, with attention given to how the realities of forensic fieldwork and early successes in identification contributed to reconsiderations of who could and should be included in this attempt to identify the unknown.

Cite this Record

The Ethics and Practice of Forensic Archaeology, Unfunded Mandates, and the Unidentified. Craig T. Goralski. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443808)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -124.189; min lat: 31.803 ; max long: -105.469; max lat: 43.58 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21206