Stable isotope baseline for the island of Crete: Potential forensic applications

Elena Kranioti, Antonis Papadomanolakis, Georgios Diamantopoulos, Dotsika Elissavet

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

When a body is discovered without identity one of the fundamental goals of forensic work is to establish the identity and return the deceased to their family. While personal identification methods such as DNA have been used to establish individual identities, there are circumstances in which these methods are unsuccessful. In such cases where comparison with missing person’s reports and DNA is not feasible - or even possible because geographic origins are unknown - the use of stable isotope analysis is a viable option for determining provenance and has been used successfully in a number of forensic cases to determine regional origins. Isotope baseline values were established for different biological materials (e.g. bone, teeth, hair) in order to provide a record of a person’s dietary preferences, travel history, and residence patterns. Yet no such database currently exists in Greece.

Greece is one of the routes for immigration from Turkey, Middle East and Africa to Europe. According to the Missing Migrants Project (IOM) 156,574 immigrants arrived in Greece by sea (June 2016) of which 376 died on the Turkey-Greece route trying to find shelter in one of the Greek islands. Amongst them Crete is one of the popular destinations as it attracts arrivals from the North of Africa as well. In addition to the recent immigrant waves in Crete the island is a typical tourist destination which means that during the “warm” season a large number of tourists and seasonal job seekers from different countries and other parts of Greece float the island. Last, several isolated cases of unidentified remains were recovered from the sea the past few years and most still remain without identity.
A number of skeletal samples from a documented skeletal collection (Cretan collection) are collected with the objective to be analysed for carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur and hydrogen. Animal samples, soil samples and water samples will also be obtained from different locations to account for the environmental values of the isotopes. The work will be carried out at the National Centre for Scientific Research, Demokritos in Greece.

This project aims in creating the first ever stable isotope ratio baseline in Crete (Greece) as a forensic identification tool on a region which constitutes a common illegal entry to Europe for war immigrants, people and drug traffickers. The preliminary results of this work are presented here.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAbstract book, 2018 FASE Symposium, Marseille, France
PublisherPresses Universitaires d’Aixe-Marseille
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2018


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