Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard L. Jantz

Committee Members

Walter Klippel, Amy Mundorff, Dawnie Steadman, Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan


This study examines skeletal health in a modern American population and its implication to forensic identification. Sometimes pathological conditions (e.g. healed fractures, surgical devices and other conditions) are used for personal identification even when there are no radiographs. The post-mortem remains are compared to ante-mortem written records or family reports, and a possible match is suggested. However, there is a debate whether these conditions are sufficiently individualizing for this purpose. This dissertation examines the frequencies of these conditions and their combinations and also compares the observed information on the reported medical histories.

The sample used in the study is from the W. M. Bass Donated Skeletal Collection housed at the Department of Anthropology at UTK. The sample consists of 180 individuals including both males and females, and self-donations and family donations. Skeletons were studied macroscopically for healed fractures, surgical devices, pathological lesions, osteoarthritis and skeletal anomalies. The results show that osteoarthritis and healed fractures are very common in this sample of elderly people. Osteoarthritis is limited to joint surfaces and thus combinations of affected areas are few, but healed fractures can be seen in various combinations in multiple elements. In addition, the more detailed the information is (e.g. specific location), the more combinations there will be. Factors such as sex, age, and BMI were found to affect presence of certain conditions.

The reported medical histories seem to have accurate reports on major surgical interventions such as open heart surgeries, prosthetics and amputations, but they are underreporting healed fractures, especially in ribs, and osteoarthritis. Differences in agreement of reported and observed conditions were seen between self- and family donations but no clear trends were seen between sexes.

Observed fractures.pdf (5880 kB)
Observed fractures

observed bone loss and formation.pdf (5401 kB)
Observed bone loss and formation

Observed eburnation.pdf (3597 kB)
Observed eburnation

Observed surgical devices.pdf (3040 kB)
Observed surgical devices

Anomalies and degenerative changes.pdf (714 kB)
Observed anomalies and degenerative changes

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