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

The effect of climatic conditions on burnt bone fragmentation


Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

This research aims to assess how climatic conditions, such as temperature and rainfall, affect the fragmentation of burnt bone. Recovery of remains from fatal fire scenes is often hampered by the fragmentary nature of the material and though understanding how climatic conditions affect this fragmentation it may be possible to adjust recovery timelines and protocols to maximise the quantity and quality of material recovered. This data is also valuable as a baseline for expected fragmentation, and expected differences in fragmentation, under different climatic conditions.

Sus scrofa forelimbs were burned in a series of wood fires over a period of eight months from winter through to fall. Limbs from younger and older individuals were recovered after cooling overnight and additional limbs from older individuals were recovered at subsequent delay periods of 24 hours, 56 hours and 168 hours (1 week). Bone fragments were sorted by size and the proportional weight of each category compared to observe differences in fragmentation. Preliminary results suggest that following immediate recovery cold weather and freezing conditions increase fragmentation in younger remains but not in older remains. In the delayed recovery series cold weather and freezing conditions resulted in steady increases in proportional weight with increasing category size, whereas in temperate, wet conditions proportional weights increase in a stepped pattern with mid-sized categories showing similar levels.

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