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Reconstructing the Sequence of Events Surrounding Body Disposition Based on Color Staining of Bone

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Literature regarding bone color is limited to determining location of primary and secondary dispositions. This research is the first to use bone color to interpret the sequence of events surrounding body disposition. Two scenarios were compared—bones buried and then exposed on the ground surface and bones exposed then buried. Forty juvenile pig humeri with minimal tissue were used in each scenario with an additional 20 controls to determine if decomposing tissue affects bone color. Munsell Color Charts were used to record bone color of surface and 2.5 cm cross-sections. Results reveal five main surface colors attributed to soil, sun, hemolysis, decomposition, and fungi. Fungi on buried bones suggests prior surface exposure. Cross-sections of strictly buried bones are identical to buried then exposed bone, stressing the importance of bone surface analysis. Cross-sectioning may help verify remains have been exposed then buried. Decomposition of excess tissue creates minimal color staining.

Keywords: Aspergillus; Penicillium; buried; color staining; disposition; exposed; forensic science; forensic taphonomy; fungi

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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