Abstract: Very little literature exists concerning radiochemical and microscopic analyses of gunshot wounds in decomposed material, and even less concerning skeletonized samples; the most advanced technologies may provide useful indications for the diagnosis of suspect lesions, especially if gunshot wounds are no longer recognizable. However, we know very little of the survival of gunshot residues (GSR) in skeletonized samples. This study examined nine gunshot wounds produced on pig heads which then underwent skeletonization for 4 years, and four gunshot entries on human heads from judicial cases which were then macerated to the bone in water; the samples underwent scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray (SEM-EDX) analysis. Positive results for GSR were observed only in four of the nine animal samples and in all four human samples. Among the human samples, two lesions showed Pb and Sb, one lesion only Pb, and one Pb, Sb, and Ba. This pilot study showed the survival of GSR in skeletal material and therefore the crucial importance of SEM-EDX analyses on skeletonized material. Further studies are needed in order to ascertain the role of environmental modifications of GSR.
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