Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Forensic Anthropology Option)

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Randall Skelton

Commitee Members

Kirsten Green, Christopher Palmer


tool mark impressions, frozen bone, dismemberment


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Biological and Physical Anthropology


The act of dismembering a body leaves identifiable marks on the bone. These marks, whether they be from knives, saws, axes, or any other tool, can help provide law enforcement with information about the type of tool they should be looking for. While there has been considerable research done on the marks left by different types of weapons, a factor that has not been examined is the differences in tool marks based on the condition of the body at the time of dismemberment. This study will initiate this new avenue of research by analyzing the differences seen in tool mark impressions on fresh and frozen bone. Sixteen fully fleshed porcine femora were used for this study and split up into four stages of analysis. The bones in these stages were cut while fresh, after frozen 1 week, after frozen 4 weeks, and after frozen 8 weeks. One bone was used for each type of tool (hacksaw, reciprocating saw, axe, and hatchet) in each stage and the marks were compared to one another. This study shows that the properties of frozen bone do indeed alter the impressions left by tools, and that these altered impressions remain even after the bone has been thawed and processed. Characteristics of fresh bone existed throughout the entire experiment, but the later stages of the experiment also exhibited considerably more chipping and fracturing which shows that the frozen bones have begun to lose their ability to withstand stress before breaking. While the only blatant characteristic found in this study of bone being cut while frozen is a significantly smoother cut mark, it is the mixture of fresh and dry bone properties that is most telling. This type of research will benefit law enforcement by providing more information about the postmortem interval of dismembered remains, thus creating a clearer picture about the treatment of the body and possibly even narrowing down potential suspects.



© Copyright 2018 Elena Hughes