Graduate Studies


First Advisor

Dr. William R. Belcher

Second Advisor

Dr. Phil R. Geib

Third Advisor

Dr. LuAnn Wandsnider

Date of this Version


Document Type



Lawson, Alicia J. 2023 The Impacts of Site Formation Processes on Excavation Methodology: The Study of a World War II B-24 Crash Site in Münster, Germany. Master's thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Anthropology, Under the Supervision of Professor William Belcher. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2023

Copyright © 2023 Alicia J. Lawson

Since March 2020, the University of Nebraksa-Lincoln and the Department of Defense's Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency entered into an academic and logistical partnership. This partnership covers but is not limited to joint research projects, training programs, as well as faculty and employee exchange and student internships.


Academic partnerships between universities and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) are a recent development to provide top research universities resources to assist in recovering and identifying MIA service members since World War II. A University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL)/DPAA Partner excavation revisited a WWII B-24H crash site in Münster, Germany in the summer of 2022. B-24H 42-51223 crashed into three agricultural fields on 23 March 1945. Utilizing quantitative and qualitative data collected on the incident-related and archaeological osseous remains and artifacts recovered from the fields and the fields’ land use history, this thesis focuses on analyzing the site formation processes affecting the site and associated material, such as pedoturbation, trampling, plowing, and scavenging. The main methods of analysis are GIS spatial analysis and statistical analysis using Wilcoxon rank-sum and Kruskal-Wallis tests. Before now, the presence and effects of formation processes in WWII aircraft crash sites has remained largely understudied. Special emphasis is placed on comparing the dry-screening and low-pressure wet-screening recovery methods employed during the UNL excavation to discover the significance each had on the type and amounts of material collected. DPAA prefers its organic recovery teams to utilize wet screening as they believe it is quicker and increases osseous remains recovery. They are currently attempting to transition academic partners to use wet screening as well. However, this thesis concludes that low-pressure wet-screening recovery methods should only be used when high fragmentation rates of possible human remains less than 2.5 cm in length are expected at this or other similar crash sites.

Advisor: William R. Belcher