The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Determining the Effects of Defleshing Methods on the Structural Integrity of Bone Through Mechanical Testing

BOBBIE J. LEEPER1, SARAH E. HENDERSON2, ALEJANDRO J. ALMARZA2, MARGARET A. JUDD1 and MICHAEL I. SIEGEL1.

1Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, 2Departments of Oral Biology and Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh

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This study compared the effects of commonly used defleshing methods on bone tissue stiffness. These methods are widely used in forensic anthropology, despite the lack of empirical data on their effects on the structural integrity of bone tissue. An Instron 5564 with a 2kN capacity was used to conduct unconfined compression tests on 7.4mm bone core samples drilled from metatarsals (n=60) of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) before and after defleshing.

Defleshing methods tested included maceration, dermestid beetles, plain water boiling, enzymatic laundry detergent, household bleach, and sodium perborate. The detergent, bleach, and sodium perborate were tested in low, medium, and high concentrations. The results indicated that maceration, dermestids, and the medium concentration of sodium perborate significantly (p<0.05) altered the stiffness of the bone in at least one of three variables tested (strain at 1790N, stress at the first peak, and the tangent modulus). Maceration of the bone caused the strain to increase and the stress to decrease. The dermestid beetles decreased the modulus of the bone. Sodium perborate increased the strain and decreased the stress and modulus of the bone. In general, these three treatments made the bone less stiff and strong.

This investigation found that the use of mechanical testing offers valuable insight into the effects that defleshing methods have on bones in addition to macroscopic, histological, and genetic analyses. It is especially important to understand these processing effects on human remains from forensic cases, as they may be called into question in the courtroom.

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