FBI Trains at the 'Body Farm'

A team of FBI students spent two full days on an excavation at the FBI's annual Recovery of Human Remains course at the Body Farm in Tennessee.

Video Transcript

Dr. Stanley Rhine, forensic anthropologist, professor emeritus, University of New Mexico, team leader at FBI Recovery of Human Remains course:

"The fundamental truth about excavation is: it can only be done once. To excavate is to destroy. And so in the process of recovering what is buried you destroy the context in which it's buried. And the context, the surrounding soil, may contain extremely valuable information about the individual--artifacts and other things that would help in the process of identification or in trying to figure out what happened to that individual."

That’s the challenge of excavation: You never know what you’re going to uncover for sure until you do so.

And what they’re doing now is finding some rather interesting artifacts. And we can’t really see what they are until they have things leveled once again and they’ve worked down to those things. Rather than just digging them out with a shovel and throwing them up on the side of the grave we have to be really sure what’s there. Bone is delicate. It’s been buried for a while and so we have to take steps to make sure we don’t really do anything that’s going to damage the bone.

Everyone says to excavate is to destroy. And we all know that. That’s perfectly obvious. What they sometimes forget is the other half of the equation, the flip side. Because to investigate is to illuminate. And that, after all, is the purpose of the excavation--illumination."

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