U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Isotopic and Elemental Analysis of the William Bass Donated Skeletal Collection and Other Modern Donated Collections

NCJ Number
Nicholas Herrmann; Zheng-Hua Li; Monica Warner; Daniel Weinand; Miriam Soto
Date Published
December 2013
69 pages
This project analyzed multiple isotopes (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, strontium, and nitrogen) and trace elements in modern human bone, teeth, and hair from the William Bass Donated Skeletal Collection (WBDSC), the Maxwell Museum Documented Skeletal Collection (UNM), and the Texas State University-San Marcos Forensic Research Facility (TSU-SM).
Isotopic and elemental characteristics of human bone, teeth, and hair have been shown to be useful biomarkers for forensic anthropologists and criminal investigators. These biomarkers trace locations and movements of the individuals and aid in the identification of human remains. Overall, this project generated a national isotope database derived from the WBDSC and the other donated skeletal collections. It also provided forensic anthropologists and criminal investigators a comparative isotopic database of known residence from various sampled tissues; and it evaluated the effectiveness of implementing multiple isotopic analyses in estimating movement histories for modern forensic cases. Study results indicate that the enamel from the WBSC collection are reflective of individuals' birth locations; whereas, hair keratin d2 H values are influenced by individuals' death locations, which is consistent with isotope studies of forensically derived human samples. This suggests that the application of dual isotopes (O and H) provides a clear picture of residential history by spatially locating the beginning (tooth) and the ending (hair) of the individual life journey. A total of 290 individuals were sampled for a combination of stable isotope and trace element analyses. The samples included powdered enamel for strontium analysis, bone collagen extraction for carbon and nitrogen analyses, bone apatite and Ag3PO4 enamel precipitate for oxygen analysis, and bulk hair samples for hydrogen analysis. 12 figures, 1 table, 22 references, and information o the dissemination of research findings.