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Validation of X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry for Determining Osseous or Dental Origin of Unknown Material

Authors

  • Angi M. Christensen Ph.D.,

    1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Laboratory Division, Forensic Anthropology Program, 2501 Investigation Pkwy, Quantico, VA 22135.
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  • Michael A. Smith Ph.D.,

    1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Laboratory Division, Chemistry Unit, 2501 Investigation Pkwy, Quantico, VA 22135.
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  • Richard M. Thomas Ph.D.

    1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Laboratory Division, Forensic Anthropology Program, 2501 Investigation Pkwy, Quantico, VA 22135.
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  • Presented at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 22–27, 2011, Chicago, IL.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Angi M. Christensen, Ph.D.
FBI Laboratory—Forensic Anthropology Program
2501 Investigation Pkwy
Quantico, VA 22135
E-mail: angi.christensen@ic.fbi.gov

Abstract

Abstract:  Forensic anthropological examinations typically involve the analysis of human skeletal remains, but in cases where samples are very small and/or physically compromised, it may first be necessary to determine whether the material is even osseous or dental in origin. X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) is a technique that reveals the elemental composition of materials and is hypothesized to have utility in such cases. XRF analysis was conducted on a variety of tissues and materials in unaltered and altered (damaged) states. With few exceptions, osseous and dental tissues in unaltered and altered conditions contained characteristic levels of calcium and phosphorus, while other materials did not. Materials could be accurately identified as osseous or dental in origin based on the calcium and phosphorus levels identified by XRF, and we therefore conclude that XRF analysis is a valid and effective means of determining osseous or dental origin of unknown material.

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