alexa Analysis of microtraces in invasive traumas using SEM EDS
Social & Political Sciences

Social & Political Sciences

Journal of Anthropology Reports

Author(s): EJ Vermeij, PD Zoon, SBCG Chang, I Keereweer, R Pieterman, RRR Gerretsen

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Scanning electron microscopy in combination with energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometry (SEM/EDS) is a proven forensic tool and has been used to analyze several kinds of trace evidence. A forensic application of SEM/EDS is the examination of morphological characteristics of tool marks that tools and instruments leave on bone. The microtraces that are left behind by these tools and instruments on the bone are, however, often ignored or not noticed at all. In this paper we will describe the use of SEM/EDS for the analysis of microtraces in invasive sharp-force, blunt-force and bone-hacking traumas in bone. This research is part of a larger multi-disciplinary approach in which pathologists, forensic anthropologists, toolmark and microtrace experts work together to link observed injuries to a suspected weapon or, in case of an unknown weapon, to indicate a group of objects that could have been used as a weapon. Although there are a few difficulties one have to consider, the method itself is rather simple and straightforward to apply. A sample of dry and clean bone is placed into the SEM sample chamber and brightness and contrast are set such that bone appears grey, metal appears white and organic material appears black. The sample is then searched manually to find relevant features. Once features are found their elemental composition is measured by an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS). This method is illustrated using several cases. It is shown that SEM/EDS analysis of microtraces in bone is a valuable tool to get clues about an unknown weapon and can associate a specific weapon with injuries on the basis of appearance and elemental composition. In particular the separate results from the various disciplines are complementary and may be combined to reach a conclusion with a stronger probative value. This is not only useful in the courtroom but above all in criminal investigations when one have to know for what weapon or object to look for.

This article was published in Forensic Science International and referenced in Journal of Anthropology Reports

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