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Sci Justice. 2006 Apr-Jun;46(2):107-24.

Sediment fingerprints: a forensic technique using quartz sand grains.

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  • 1Oxford University Centre for the Environment, University of Oxford.


The analyses of 738 soil and sediment samples taken during the investigation of 20 forensic cases are combined in a database for retrospective comparisons. Quartz sand grain surface textures are combined into grain types which are analysed at one of five orders of classification. This classification also provides frequency data on the number of grain types found in a sample, the individuality of the quartz grain type assemblages and quartz grain type ratios. The technique, developed primarily as an exclusion mechanism, suggests possibilities, in some circumstances, that significant interpretations can be achieved at different orders of classification. The technique provides excellent exclusionary results and, when combined with other independent lines of analysis, is a powerful tool in forensic interpretation because it uses quartz as its discriminatory mineral. The technique also highlights the potential for computer image recognition analysis.

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