You are hereHome › College of Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities (CASSH) › Department of Anthropology › Winburn, Allysha › Afro-Cuban ritual use of human remains Style APAChicagoHarvardIEEEMLATurabian Choose the citation style. Winburn, A. P., Martinez, R., & Schoff, S. K. (2017). Afro-Cuban ritual use of human remains: Medicolegal considerations. Journal of Forensic Identification, 67(1), 1-30. Afro-Cuban ritual use of human remains Details Type Academic Journal Article Title Afro-Cuban ritual use of human remains: Medicolegal considerations Contributor(s) Winburn, Allysha Powanda (author)Martinez, Rafael (author)Schoff, Sarah Kiley (author) Located In Journal of Forensic Identification ISSN 0895-173X Volume 67 Issue 1 Start Page 1 End Page 30 Date 2017 Abstract Medicolegal professionals occasionally encounter human remains that have been used for ritual purposes. In the state of Florida, practitioners of the Afro-Cuban religious system of Palo (a Kongo-inspired religion frequently referred to as Palo Mayombe) use human skulls and crania in religious rituals [1–3]. Recent research by forensic anthropologists from the University of Florida’s C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory (CAPHIL) has identified biocultural and taphonomic signatures left by Palo practices on human remains . Some of the traits included in the biocultural and taphonomic signatures are shared by other Afro-Cuban religious systems–most notably, Ocha (often called Santería), Palo’s Yoruba-inspired cousin religion [3–6]. However, other traits constitute unique elements of Palo ritual [4, 5], enabling anthropologists to identify the religious affiliation of these assemblages with confidence . We begin this paper with a literature review describing the religious systems of Ocha and Palo, the major components of Afro-Cuban ritual assemblages, and the history of medicolegal interactions with these assemblages. We then enhance existing Afro-Cuban biocultural and taphonomic signatures  with new observational data and present a synthesis of material cultural and biological data to enable further specificity in identifying Palo assemblages. Finally, we outline medicolegal considerations for the identification and handling of these ritual assemblages of human remains and material culture. We provide background on the legal and illegal sourcing of ritual human remains, recommendations for criminal investigations, and guidelines for the safe and ethical handling of these unique assemblages–including cases in which they have been contaminated with elemental mercury.