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

A comparative analysis of serrated and non-serrated knife trauma


Department of Anthropology, Texas State University-San Marcos

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

The interpretation of sharp-force trauma to bone is an important component of bioarchaeological and forensic anthropological investigations involving signatures of interpersonal violence, and the analysis of cut-marks on faunal remains can provide information regarding cultural butchering and subsistence practices.

Using 5-inch serrated and non-serrated steak knives, this macroscopic and microscopic study examined sharp-force trauma inflicted on pig ribs (n=100) in order to determine whether enough tool characteristics remained to distinguish between the two knives. Specifically, this study examined variables that included the length and width of the cut-mark, kerf morphology, and the presence of striations in bone.

Results of this study show that width of the cut-mark, presence of striations, and kerf morphology are the most accurate indicators of knife class. An ANOVA, T-test, and descriptive statistics were run showing that the average width of cut-marks from serrated blades was statistically significant at .910mm, with all cuts falling above .60mm, versus the .306mm average from non-serrated blades, with most cuts falling below .50mm. Striations occurred in 75% of all cuts made with the serrated blade, and 0% in non-serrated cuts. Finally, Y-shaped kerfs occurred in 82% of serrated cuts, while thin V-shaped kerfs occurred in 87% of non-serrated cuts.

These findings demonstrate the potential for discriminating between sharp-force defects (serrated versus non-serrated) present on bone. Distinguishing which characteristics are common to different blade classes will assist in clarification of sharp-force violence in forensic contexts, as well as provide information with reference to butchering and food preparation patterns.

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