The Forensic Evaluation of Burned Skeletal Remains: A Synthesis


    After reading this article I gained a better understanding of the affect of extreme heat on skeletal remains.  Forensic Anthropologists have many barriers they must overcome in order to identify skeletal remains.  Burned skeletal remains is one of a number of hurdles they must climb.  This article discusses in further detail the affect of different temperatures of heat, and the duration of the heat.  There are several issues in bone recovery.  Two major issues are fragmentation and context.  Since burning can lead to extreme bone fragmentation, great care must be taken at the site.  This is why it is important for the anthropologist to be part of the team in the recovery of the skeletal remains. First they must determine if the remains are human or non-human.  Non skeletal inclusions can be useful in the identification.  Some example are dental restoration, surgical materials and identification tags.  These would not get destroyed in the fire.  The hotter the temperature the more shrinkage is involved, causing it to be harder to identify.  Shrinkage will occur between 700 degrees Celsius  and 800 degrees Celsius.  At temperatures above sixteen hundred degrees Celsius melting of bone mineral can occur with recrystallization after cooling. There has been some success of DNA recovery from burned remains.  They can get DNA from the pulp of teeth with a temperature of up to three hundred degrees Celsius.  Over the past decades ability to recognize continues to increase immensely.

Forensic Science International Volume 183 , 1-5  (2009)

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