Home
This Title All WIREs
WIREs RSS Feed
How to cite this WIREs title:
WIREs Forensic Sci

Cruel traces: Bone surface modifications and their relevance to forensic science

Full article on Wiley Online Library:   HTML PDF

Can't access this content? Tell your librarian.

Abstract The reconstruction of perimortem and postmortem events is of critical importance to criminal investigations. In many cases, the information required for these reconstructions can be accessed through the analysis of skeletal remains. One particular class of skeletal data—trauma to the surfaces of bones, or bone surface modifications (BSMs)—can reveal much about the perimortem and postmortem intervals. While the study of BSMs originated within the fields of paleontology and archeology and was only later integrated into forensic science, a fruitful interdisciplinary exchange of data and methods is now commonplace. BSMs from thermal alteration, sharp‐force trauma, terrestrial and aquatic scavengers and predators, bacteria and fungi, insects, weathering, and sediment abrasion can supply investigators with valuable information about the agents and events of a corpse's deposition, including weapon type, local environmental conditions, the postmortem interval, and the presence, temperature(s), and/or length(s) of thermal exposure. Based on a review of this rich body of literature, we argue that (a) all associations between a BSM and its alleged source must rest on observational cause‐and‐effect studies; (b) secure identifications of BSMs should rely both on the intrinsic features of the modifications themselves and relevant contextual data; (c) the scientific validity of BSM research depends, ultimately, on rigorous blind‐testing and the establishment of error rates; and (d) researchers need to make a concerted effort to enhance interanalyst correspondence through objective definitions, measurements, and/or codes of BSM features. The most promising path forward lies in the combination of digital image analysis and multivariate predictive modeling. This article is categorized under: Forensic Anthropology > Trauma Analysis Forensic Anthropology > Taphonomic Changes and the Environment Forensic Anthropology > Time Since Death Estimation
(a) Human rib and cranial fragments with brown and black cortical surfaces; (b) Human rib (left) and long bone (right) fragments with gray and bluish‐gray cortical surfaces. These specimens were recovered from an archeological context and, thus, the production of the discoloration was not observed. They closely resemble the cortical surfaces indicative of carbonization (a) and calcination (b) in actualistically verified cases of thermal damage. Photos by C. P. Egeland
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
(a) Anterior view of a white‐tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) radius showing an unweathered cortical surface; (b) llateral view of a goat (Capra hircus) mandible showing longitudinal cracking; (c) anterolateral view of a medium‐sized bovid ulna showing extensive flaking, deep cracking, and deterioration of the cortical surface. Specimens (b) and (c) were recovered from a modern surface context and, thus, the production of the marks was not observed. They closely resemble modifications associated with actualistically verified early stage subaerial weathering (b) and late‐stage subaerial weathering (c). Photos by C. P. Egeland
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
Lateral view of a human cranium showing scores. This specimen was recovered from a forensic context and, thus, the production of the marks was not observed. They closely resemble the tooth scores produced in actualistically verified cases of rodent gnawing. Photos by C. P. Egeland
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
(a) Posterior views of a human scapula and humerus showing various types of damage; (b) puncture mark; (c) furrowing of the distal humeral epiphysis; (d) score. These specimens were recovered from a forensic context and, thus, the production of the marks was not observed. They closely resemble the tooth puncture marks (b), furrowing (c), and tooth scores (d) produced in actualistically verified cases of terrestrial carnivore feeding. Photos by C. P. Egeland
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
(a) Posterior and medial views of a proximal human femur showing a kerf; (b) profile view of kerf; (c) plan view of kerf. The creation of these marks with a wavy‐set hacksaw was observed. Photos by C.P. Egeland
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
Posterior view of a donkey (Equus asinus) proximal femur showing incisions. The creation of these cut marks with a non‐serrated metal knife was observed. Photos by C. P. Egeland
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]

Browse by Topic

Forensic Anthropology > Time Since Death Estimation
Forensic Anthropology > Taphonomic Changes and the Environment
Forensic Anthropology > Trauma Analysis

Access to this WIREs title is by subscription only.

Recommend to Your
Librarian Now!

The latest WIREs articles in your inbox

Sign Up for Article Alerts