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Title: Preliminary results of an investigation on postmortem variations in human skeletal mass of buried bones
Authors: Amarante, Ana 
Ferreira, Maria Teresa 
Makhoul, Calil 
Vassalo, Ana Rita 
Cunha, Eugénia 
Gonçalves, David 
Issue Date: 2018
Volume: 59
Abstract: Extreme fragmentation can complicate the inventory of human skeletal remains. In such cases, skeletal mass can provide information regarding skeleton completeness and the minimum number of individuals. For that purpose, several references for skeletal mass can be used to establish comparisons and draw inferences regarding those parameters. However, little is known about the feasibility of establishing comparisons between inherently different materials, as is the case of curated reference skeletal collections and human remains recovered from forensic and archaeological settings. The objective of this paper was to investigate the effect of inhumation, weather and heat exposure on the skeletal mass of two different bone types. This was investigated on a sample of 30 human bone fragments (14 trabecular bones and 16 compact bones) that was experimentally buried for two years after being submitted to one of four different heat treatments (left unburned; 500 °C; 900 °C; 1000 °C). Bones were exhumed periodically to assess time-related mass variation. Skeletal mass varied substantially, decreasing and increasing in accordance to the interchanging dry and wet seasons. However, trends were not the same for the two bone types and the four temperature thresholds. The reason for this appears to be related to water absorption and to the differential heat-induced changes in bone microporosity, volume, and composition. Our results suggest that mass comparisons against published references should be performed only after the skeletal remains have been preemptively dried from exogenous water.
DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2018.08.002
Rights: embargoedAccess
Appears in Collections:I&D CIAS - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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