The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

A comparison of hunting and butcher knife trauma on semifleshed and unfleshed pig bones


Department of Anthropology, Iowa State University

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The goal of this study was to quantitively assess incisions left by a hunting knife and a butcher knife on semifleshed and unfleshed pig femora. Previous studies have shown that serrated blades leave significantly different incision marks on bone than non-serrated blades, however, there are a lack of quantitative data on the differences between tool marks left by non-serrated blades.

We hypothesized that a hunting knife would leave wider incisions than a butcher knife due to its wider blade. We also predicted that trauma to unfleshed bones would produce wider incisions than trauma to fleshed bones.

To test these hypotheses, we made two incisions on each semifleshed (n=12) and unfleshed (n=16) pig femur using either a hunting knife or a butcher knife, then removed the remaining tissue and dried the bones. We photographed and measured each incision under a dissecting microscope and made molds of the incisions using silicone casting material. We used landmark analysis to compare the incision shape and wound pattern. Our results show that there are significant differences between the incisions left by the two knives; the butcher knife left narrower incisions with significant crushing present, while the hunting knife left wider incisions with minimal crushing, and large exit chips.

Our results suggest that it is possible to differentiate between incisions left by different non-serrated blades. These findings can be applied to both forensic trauma analysis as well as analysis of trauma in archaeological contexts.

Support for this study generously provided by the Iowa State University Department of Anthropology.

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