Volume 50, Issue 2 (March 2005)
Symmetrical Fracturing of the Skull from Midline Contact Gunshot Wounds: Reconstruction of Individual Death Histories from Skeletonized Human Remains
This paper reports a bilaterally symmetrical cranio-facial fracture pattern that is observed in self-inflicted, midline gunshot wounds. Five cases of self-inflicted gunshots wounds are presented as follows: two high-powered rifle cases, two shotgun cases, and one handgun case. In all five cases the remains were either decomposing or skeletonized and submitted to forensic anthropologists. Following identification, the main focus of the anthropological examination was the analysis of perimortem trauma to the skeleton. In each case, the skull was submitted in a highly fragmented state. Nevertheless, by focusing on the pattern of perimortem cranio-facial fractures, the anthropologists contributed key information regarding the circumstances of death. The observed symmetrical cranio-facial fracture patterns in the above cases are described in detail and interpreted. The specific location of the linear fractures is discussed, as well as the theoretical rationale behind the location in terms of skeletal architecture, such as buttresses, struts, and sutures. The interpretive framework provided by this paper may prove helpful to others who are faced with similar cases of cranio-facial fracturing.