This research involves the examination of the contribution of stable isotope analysis to the forensic anthropological objective of human identification. Oxygen isotopes, which vary in water in a predictable manner according to climatological and geographical factors, can be used to determine the region of origin of an unidentified individual following isotopic analysis of human skeletal remains. However, stable oxygen isotopes from human remains recovered from various aqueous environments may be altered by diagenetic processes that occur following deposition. The focus of this research is to determine potential diagenetic changes in the oxygen isotopic value (d18O) of Sus scrofa (domestic pig) ribs, used as a proxy for human remains. Bone samples (n=50) were exposed to different aqueous environments, including distilled water, fresh water, and brackish water, for a period of one, three, and six months, simulating distinct aqueous conditions that may be encountered by forensic anthropologists working in Florida. Results of this study suggest that submersion in fresh, brackish, and distilled can significantly alter the isotopic composition of bone over a period of six months. However, the observed significant shifts in isotopic composition occur over only a 1‰ range, suggesting that oxygen isotopic data derived from bone that was previously submerged in low salinity water for six months or less may be cautiously used to narrow the geographic origin of unidentified individuals in forensic investigations. This study provides a meaningful contribution to forensic research regarding stable isotope analysis as well as the body of literature regarding early diagenetic changes in aqueous contexts.
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Toyne, J. Marla
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Martin, Erin, "Forensic Implications for the Diagenetic Alteration of the Stable Isotopic Composition of Pig Ribs Following Exposure to Aqueous Conditions." (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 526.