Scientific article

Dating human skeletal remains using a radiometric method: biogenic versus diagenetic 90Sr and 210Pb in vertebrae

Published inForensic science international, vol. 220, no. 1-3, p. 271-278
Publication date2012

In forensic science, there is a strong interest in determining the post-mortem interval (PMI) of human skeletal remains up to 50 years after death. Currently, there are no reliable methods to resolve PMI, the determination of which relies almost exclusively on the experience of the investigating expert. Here we measured (90)Sr and (210)Pb ((210)Po) incorporated into bones through a biogenic process as indicators of the time elapsed since death. We hypothesised that the activity of radionuclides incorporated into trabecular bone will more accurately match the activity in the environment and the food chain at the time of death than the activity in cortical bone because of a higher remodelling rate. We found that determining (90)Sr can yield reliable PMI estimates as long as a calibration curve exists for (90)Sr covering the studied area and the last 50 years. We also found that adding the activity of (210)Po, a proxy for naturally occurring (210)Pb incorporated through ingestion, to the (90)Sr dating increases the reliability of the PMI value. Our results also show that trabecular bone is subject to both (90)Sr and (210)Po diagenesis. Accordingly, we used a solubility profile method to determine the biogenic radionuclide only, and we are proposing a new method of bone decontamination to be used prior to (90)Sr and (210)Pb dating.

Citation (ISO format)
SCHRAG, Bettina et al. Dating human skeletal remains using a radiometric method: biogenic versus diagenetic 90Sr and 210Pb in vertebrae. In: Forensic science international, 2012, vol. 220, n° 1-3, p. 271–278. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.03.014
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0379-0738

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