A study of bone chemistry in forensic applications

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The primary aim was to develop a method for accurately estimating the post-burial time of bones. Bones were buried in diverse soil environments for 18 months and subsequently examined using various analytical techniques. Pig rib bones were used as an analogue for human bones. The burial environments varied in factors including soil type, soil pH, moisture content and temperature. Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM) allowed the classification of bone samples into two categories of young and old based on differences in surface morphology. X-ray Diffraction (XRD) results showed no changes in crystallinity for a post-burial period of 18 months, making this technique unsuitable for post-burial time estimation. Thermogravimetric analysis (TG) showed an overall increasing trend in mass loss in all the bone samples up to a post-burial time of 8 months. Bones buried in an acidic soil environment showed a decreasing trend in mass loss with increasing burial time, indicating that an acidic environment is the most destructive environment. Pyrolysis Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) was identified as being the most useful and accurate technique for estimating the post-burial time of recovered bone samples. The data showed a direct correlation between the actual and predicted post-burial time of bones for all the pre-treatment procedures studied except for boiling. The pyrograms collected for the different post-burial times demonstrated the process of diagenesis and highlighted the identifiable compounds most susceptible to degradation, as well as the identifiable compounds which persist after longer periods of burial. Comparison of the different burial environments also demonstrated that it is possible to estimate the post-burial period of bones without knowledge of the burial environment, however, information about the burial environment allows for a more accurate estimation of the post-burial time.
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