Perimortem Postmortem Trauma Dissertation

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The forensic anthropologist is often tasked with analyzing skeletal trauma and determining time since death. Differentiating between perimortem and postmortem fractures can be difficult when bone retains fresh characteristics in the postmortem interval. As a result, it is important to conduct research that investigates timing of injury in the postmortem period by observing fracture characteristics created at known postmortem intervals. Investigation into the timing of injury was undertaken in this study over a four month time period. By fracturing bones using a custom impact device, specific morphological characteristics that are typically used in trauma analysis were created for analysis. Long bones of pigs (Sus scrofa) (N=140) were placed in two separate outdoor environments: full sun and full shade. Five bones were collected from each environment weekly and subsequently fractured. A control group consisting of 5 fresh bones was fractured to simulate perimortem trauma. Analysis of fracture characteristics was completed using a standardized protocol that was modified from previous studies, evaluating the fracture angle, fracture surface, and fracture outline. Statistical analyses were performed to investigate the relationships between and among these variables. The results of this study denote a discernable relationship between fracture characteristics and the postmortem interval, indicating a significant shift in the occurrence of these variables as the postmortem interval increases. As the postmortem interval increases, there is a trend toward primarily dry fracture characteristics. Additionally, statistical analysis indicates that the environment in which the bones are deposited has a significant effect on the fracture surface and outline as the postmortem interval increases. This study found that intrinsic dry fracture characteristics were observed as early as two weeks postmortem. These results suggest that it is possible to distinguish wet from dry fracture characteristics earlier in the Central Florida region than previously reported in the literature. These findings support the use of taphonomic models developed according to geographic region. Environmental factors are regionally specific, potentially complicating reconstruction of post-depositional history. The use of taphonomic models and standardized protocols for analysis provides increased accuracy in taphonomic analyses and estimation of the post-mortem interval in forensic casework.


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Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Sciences

Degree Program



Release Date

February 2016

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)

STARS Citation

Green, Ashley, "An Examination of the Progression of Fracture Propagation in Long Bones During the Postmortem Period in Central Florida" (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5023.

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