Volume 47, Issue 3 (May 2002)
Post-cremation Taphonomy and Artifact Preservation
Contemporary commercial cremation is a reductive taphonomic process that represents one of the most extreme examples of postmortem human alteration of bone. The thorough reduction and fragmentation of cremated human remains often leaves little biological evidence of diagnostic value. Instead, non-osseous artifacts often provide the best evidence of the origin of the cremated remains, the identity of the decedent, and commingling of the remains of more than one individual. Once human remains have been cremated they are most commonly placed into a processor and reduced into small fragments and fine ash suitable for inurnment or scattering. The type of processor determines the size and utility of the particulates and artifacts available for analysis. The newest type of processors have changed the manner and degree of postmortem bone modification and altered the preservation of diagnostic bone fragments and cremation artifacts. This paper addresses the impact of the newest cremation procedures on forensic analysis of cremated remains.