Volume 38, Issue 1 (January 1993)
The Analysis of Cremains: A Case Study Involving the Inappropriate Disposal of Mortuary Remains
Cremation as a method of body disposition has increased over the last two decades. Mishandling of the remains is bringing the analysis of cremains to the attention of forensic anthropologists. The destruction of skeletal components by heat, and mechanical reduction, make the analysis of cremains difficult.
Three years after receiving cremains believed to be that of their mother, a family received a second set of cremains that were also purported to be those of their mother. Questioning whether which, if either, set of remains were the decedent, the family initiated an anthropological analysis of both sets of remains.
The investigation focused on both osseous and nonosseous characteristics of each set. Total weight of the material and differences in both the osseous and nonosseous characteristics indicate that the cremains represent two individuals. These differences include the degree of color change due to heat, the amount of bone fragments vs. ash, and the lead and calcium content remaining in the fragments from each set. Differences in the nonosseous components of each set are related to coffin hardware, and medical and dental artifacts.