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Alternate Light Sources in the Detection of Bone After an Accelerated Fire: A Pilot Study


  • Presented in part at the Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology (CAPA) Annual Meeting, November 17, 2007, in Banff, Alberta, Canada; the Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium for Anthropology, March 26, 2008, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; the 2008 Toronto Police Forensic Identification Educational Conference, April 9, 2008, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; the Scenes of Crime Officer Advanced Training, May 5, 2009, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and the 2010 Toronto Police Forensic Identification Educational Conference, March 10, 2010, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It has also been displayed in poster format in part at the International Association for Identification's 93rd International Educational Conference, August 19, 2008, in Louisville, KY, and the Canadian Society of Forensic Science (CSFS) Conference, December 2, 2010, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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Amber S. Gallant, H.B.Sc.

Department of Anthropology

University of Toronto

5212 Forest Hill Drive

Mississauga, Ontario L5M 5B2




This study examines the ability of alternate light sources to detect bone that has been exposed to fire when identification of bone remains is difficult to ascertain. It is intended as a tool for fire investigators to quickly determine whether an area should be considered a forensic scene. After being subjected to a test burn, pig bones were viewed and photographed with the use of a laser, and later compared with a UV light source. A secondary study observing stages of a human cremation was conducted to assess how various levels of burnt flesh affect the ability of bone to fluoresce utilizing a laser. Both studies demonstrated success in detecting bone while fluorescing with a molten lava type of appearance that has the potential to distinguish bone from its surrounding environment. Limitations and recommendations are discussed by the author including the need for future studies to expand on this research.

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