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Keywords:

  • trauma;
  • blunt trauma;
  • gunshot wound;
  • bone fracture

Abstract

This paper presents some of the basic principles of bone fracture physics and outlines characteristics used by forensic anthropologists to distinguish gunshot trauma from blunt trauma. The fracture pattern of a cranium from a historic cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee provides an example of how the mechanism of trauma could be misinterpreted. The pattern of the perimortem fractures is indicative of gunshot trauma with a bullet entering one side of the vault and impacting the opposite side. Identification of radiating fractures, concentric heaving fractures, and observation of the direction of bevel on the fractured surfaces are essential for interpretation of the mechanism that produced the injury.