Volume 46, Issue 6 (November 2001)
Quantitative Analysis of Sharp-Force Trauma: An Application of Scanning Electron Microscopy in Forensic Anthropology
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) has occasionally been used by anthropologists and forensic scientists to look at morphological characteristics that certain implements leave on bone. However, few studies have addressed techniques or protocols for assessing quantitative differences between tool marks on bone made by different bladed implements. In this study, the statistical variation in cut mark width was examined between control and test samples on bone using a scalpel blade, paring knife, and kitchen utility knife. Statistically significant differences (p < .0005) were found between cut marks made by the same knife under control and test conditions for all three knife types used in the study. When the control sample and test samples were examined individually for differences in mean variation between knife types, significant differences were also found (p < .0005). While significant differences in cut mark width were found, caution should be used in trying to classify individual cut marks as being inflicted by a particular implement, due to the overlap in cut mark width that exists between different knife types. When combined, both quantitative and qualitative analyses of cut marks should prove to be more useful in trying to identify a suspect weapon. Furthermore, the application of SEM can be particularly useful for assessing many of these features.