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Perimortem or Postmortem Bone Fractures? An Experimental Study of Fracture Patterns in Deer Femora*


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    Portions of this work have been presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences at Dallas, TX, February 20, 2004; the Mountain, Swamp & Beach Regional Forensic Association at Radford, VA, September 2, 2006; and the Mountain, Desert & Coastal Forensic Anthropology Meeting at Lake Mead, NV, May 2003.


Abstract:  The determination of perimortem trauma is important for forensic anthropologists. Characteristics of bone fractures such as sharp edges, presence of fracture lines, the shape of the broken ends, fracture surface morphology, fracture angle on the Z-axis, and butterfly fractures are said to differentiate perimortem from postmortem trauma. A Drop Weight Impact Test Machine was used to break 76 deer femora of various ages since death. The results of this study suggest that the characteristics listed above are unreliable at differentiating a perimortem fracture from a postmortem fracture in a forensic case. There are, however, statistically significant differences between fresh bones broken less than 4 days old and dry bones broken 44 days or 1 year old after death.

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