Fragmentation of calcined bone: Aspects relating to improving recovery of calcined bone from fatal fire scenes

  • Author / Creator
    Waterhouse, Kathryn
  • Burning has a significant effect on the human body. Soft tissue is burnt and bone is significantly altered as water and organic content is lost. These changes cause bone to become brittle, fragile and prone to fragmentation, complicating recovery of remains. In an effort to maximize remains recovery, reduce unnecessary destruction and enhance anthropological evaluation, this research aims to increase our understanding of some factors that affect burnt bone fragmentation. Key elements affecting burnt bone fragmentation were identified by conducting a review of fatal fire deaths in Alberta over a ten year period. The effect of decedent age on remains fragmentation was investigated with results showing that younger bone typically fragments less than older bone burnt in similar burn environments. Investigations into the effect of delayed recovery on bone fragmentation outlined the time line of remains destruction and highlighted the need for rapid recovery whenever possible. Finally, the effects of temperature and rainfall on remains fragmentation were assessed and results identify the destructive effects of freezing conditions, temperature fluctuations and damp conditions. All investigations were conducted using Sus scrofa (domestic pig) limbs burnt in wood fires and altering the variables decedent age; time until recovery; and season of burn event. Data presented in this thesis will enable scene investigators and scene managers to reduce post-burning remains destruction, ensure efficient, maximum value recovery protocols are employed and appropriately prioritise remains recovery within the context of the scene. These improvements are vital to maximise anthropological assessment of burnt bone and to ensure legal and moral obligations to recover all human remains from a fatal fire scene are met.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Anthropology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Beattie, Owen (Anthropology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Le Blanc, Raymond (Anthropology)
    • Harrington, Lesley (Anthropology)
    • Losey, Robert (Anthropology)
    • Garvie-Lok, Sandra (Anthropology)
    • Thompson, Tim (School of Science & Engineering)