The View from Within: Can CT be used to Help Detect Differences between Human and Non-Human Bones?

23rd November 2014

Croker, SarahWhen attempting to identify fragments of bone as human or non-human, few morphological details may be remaining, particularly from the shafts of long bones. It was noticed that the endosteal (internal) surface of long bones can differ in appearance between humans and non-human mammals. This difference generally takes the form of the presence of irregular trabeculae throughout the human long bone shaft, and a smooth endosteal surface in the long bones of some nonhuman mammals. This aspect is worthy of further exploration, since the endosteal surface is likely to be visible in the majority of bone fragments. One problem with such research is observing the endosteal surface of an appropriate number of bones without destroying them (for bones held in collections). Simple radiography allows clear images but the two-dimensional nature means it is not possible to determine whether internal bone patterns relate to the endosteal surface itself or the central medullary space of the bone. Computed tomography (CT) may be the answer, as it allows images to be rotated and viewed from numerous orientations. However, regular CT can have difficulties defining very fine bone. This poster describes a pilot study conducted to determine how well CT can be used to visualise the endosteal area of a range of long bone sizes. The major limb bones of a rabbit, cat, dog, two different wallabies, red kangaroo, sheep, pig and horse were compared with those of several humans. The results show the clarity of image that can be expected (smaller bones are more difficult to visualise), and the type of information regarding the endosteal region it is possible to extract from such images. This research is an important step in shaping new paths for continuing research in readily accessible methods for the identification of bone fragments.

Citation for this poster:

Croker, S. 2014 The View from Within: Can CT be used to Help Detect Differences between Human and Non-Human Bones? Poster Presented at the AAA/ASHA Annual Conference, 1-3 December, Cairns.

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