Differentiating Commingled Human Remains through EDXRF (Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence)

Author(s): Kathryn Campeau; Tracy Prowse; Tristan Carter

Year: 2017


The ability to differentiate commingled skeletal remains is critical in the analysis of mass burials, archaeological sites and mass fatality events in forensic cases. The potential application of EDXRF (Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence) to aid in differentiating commingled remains is being explored at the MAX Lab (McMaster Archaeological XRF Lab), expanding the lab’s research focus from solely obsidian sourcing to include bio-archaeological applications. There are numerous factors affecting bone’s chemical composition; consequently, an individual’s bones should have a unique elemental characterization which can be determined using EDXRF, a quick, non-destructive technique. Drawing upon Gonzalez-Rodriguez and Fowler’s (2013) research which utilized a portable XRF (pXRF), the hypothesis that it is possible to differentiate individuals based on their unique chemical composition was tested using EDXRF on three archaeological skeletons from southern Italy. Applying multivariate statistical analysis, PCA (principal component analysis), to acquired data, it was possible to show distinct elemental variations and groupings among these skeletons. Trace elements, and ratios thereof, provided a greater distinction between the individuals than major elemental concentrations. Current research involves applying this method to a set of commingled remains expected to contain three individuals, in order to determine whether they can be differentiated.

Cite this Record

Differentiating Commingled Human Remains through EDXRF (Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence). Kathryn Campeau, Tracy Prowse, Tristan Carter. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431383)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -142.471; min lat: 42.033 ; max long: -47.725; max lat: 74.402 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15020