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Comparison of macroscopic and microscopic (stereomicroscopy and scanning electron microscopy) features of bone lesions due to hatchet hacking trauma

Abstract

This experimental study examined the lesions produced by a hatchet on human bones (tibiae). A total of 30 lesions were produced and examined macroscopically (naked eye) and by stereomicroscopy. 13 of them were also analyzed using scanning electron microscopy. The general shape of the lesion, both edges, both walls, the kerf floor and the extremities were described. The length and maximum width of the lesions were also recorded. The microscopic analysis of the lesions led to the description of a sharp-blunt mechanism. Specific criteria were identified (lateral pushing back, fragmentation of the upraising, fossa dug laterally to the edge and vertical striae) enabling the forensic expert to conclude that a hacking instrument was used. These criteria are easily identifiable using scanning electron microscopy, but can also be observed with stereomicroscopy. Overall, lateral pushing back and vertical striae visible using stereomicroscopy and scanning electron microscopy signal the use of a hacking tool.

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Acknowledgements

We thank very much Marie-Catherine Francino for her relevant advice.

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Correspondence to Luísa Nogueira.

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There is no conflict of interest in this work.

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Highlights

- A comparison of the use of stereomicroscopy and scanning electron microscopy for examining bone lesions produced by a hatchet on human bones was performed.

- The lateral pushing back observed on the edges of a narrow and linear lesion is a hallmark of the blunt component of chopping injuries.

- Lateral pushing back can be indirectly diagnosed by observing a fossa next to a kerf wall.

- Striae are visible using stereomicroscopy and scanning electron microscopy. The presence of lateral pushing back and vertical striae both hint to the use of a hacking tool.

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Nogueira, L., Quatrehomme, G., Bertrand, MF. et al. Comparison of macroscopic and microscopic (stereomicroscopy and scanning electron microscopy) features of bone lesions due to hatchet hacking trauma. Int J Legal Med 131, 465–472 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-016-1522-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-016-1522-1

Keywords

  • Forensic anthropology
  • Bone trauma
  • Hatchet marks
  • Hacking tool
  • Stereomicroscopy
  • Scanning electron microscopy