Accurate identification and analysis of signs of trauma on human bone is one of the mainstays of forensic pathology. However, when a forensic pathologist has to deal with charred remains, the task become extremely difficult, because tissues are subjected to severe morphological alterations and their assessment can be critically distorted. We analyzed 38 individuals with peri-mortem skull fractures due to falls from height (17 cases), traffic accidents (16 cases), gunshots wounds (5 cases), of which we had the demographic and clinical data and the autopsy report with the description and photographic records of the fracture lines. After autopsy, the bodies were cremated in gas furnaces and the analysis of cremated cranial remains was conducted in order to verify if it was possible to reconstruct the original peri-mortem fractures and verify differences between known peri-mortem and post-mortem fractures. After 90 min and exposure to temperatures up to 1280 °C, in less than a third of cases (11-29%) the original peri-mortem fracture pattern could be found and reconstructed. The edges and the surface of the fractures can preserve their proper morphology, or they can be affected by post-mortem heat-induced fractures and deformations. Interestingly whenever peri-mortem fracture margins showed the evidence of yellow/brownish colouration, a matte appearance was observed, much different from post-mortem fractures, which may provide further food for thought for the identification of peri-mortem fractures after the cremation process.
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